Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Sand Island (in Georgetown County, SC)
Arrival Date: 5/7/2017
Weight: 29 kg (63.90 pounds)
This juvenile loggerhead was found stranded on the beach on Sand Island, a remote island off of our coastline in Georgetown County, by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) technicians. Hank had quite the journey just getting to the aquarium! First, Hank had to be transported by kayak from Sand Island to South Island. From there, Hank was transported to Georgetown via a ferry, where Jenna Cormany of DNR was finally able to pick him up to bring Hank to us for treatment.
On Sunday, the admission team quickly assembled to admit this new patient. Hank arrived with obvious signs of debilitated turtle syndrome (DTS), including a moderate epibiont load and emaciation. Hank was very lethargic but alert. Aside from the signs of DTS, Hank had an old boat strike fracture that ran across the top of the head and behind his right eye! Hank is so lucky to have survived that injury, as it was very deep. Surprisingly, and a testament to the resiliency of sea turtles, it had completely healed. Hank also sustained another boat strike injury to the back of his carapace (top shell), as a small portion of it is missing. Hank received a physical exam, a blood draw and was started on a course of antibiotics. The bloodwork results indicated that Hank was anemic and dehydrated, two common symptoms of DTS. Hank received fluids subcutaneously (under the skin) and a mixture of vitamins to help replenish his vitamin stores. Due to a lack of proper nutrition, DTS patients usually have soft shells. Calcium injections are often given to help the bone in the shell grow stronger. After fluids were administered, Hank was placed in a waterbed comprised of freshwater and lots of foam.
May 8, 2017: Today, Hank’s eyes were checked by Dr. Cook. The eye exam results showed the presence of cataracts in both eyes. Hank has been placed under quarantine in order to decrease the risk of cross contamination among the patients. We will continue to monitor the progression of the cataracts.
May 11, 2017: Hank is now eating a few pieces of fish, which is a great sign. We are currently moving several of our patients, including Hank, into larger tanks once the patients become more stable and as patients are released and more tanks open up. Staff could not be more excited to soon be able to use the new tanks in Recovery, as we are definitely in need of more tanks!
May 19, 2017: Recently we moved Hank into one of the larger, 1,000 gallon tanks, and he seems to really enjoy the additional room. Overall, Hank is doing well and progressing nicely. However, he is having some issues defecating, so Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) staff is monitoring him closely. Often with DTS patients, the gastrointestinal tract shuts down and impactions, or blockages, can occur when food is not moving through the system efficiently. We are feeding Hank a small portion of food daily and will increase his diet when he is defecating more frequently. We will continue to monitor the progression of the cataracts over the next few months. Hank is becoming more active and is often seen cruising around his tank.
June 5, 2017: Hank is one amazing turtle! He’s bouncing back so quickly. Thus far, we are not seeing any limitations in his vision because he is able to locate his food well. Although Hank’s not out of the woods yet, staff is very happy to see how well he is doing.
June 15, 2017: Hank is making great progress and is improving weekly! He is often observed swimming around his tank, and he is slowly gaining weight. Hank will receive another exam by our vet team later in the month.
July 1, 2017: Hank is doing very well. His body condition is slowly starting to improve, and he has already gained over six pounds. Despite having bilateral minor cataracts, Hank has no problem locating his food and even goes after the smallest of morsels. This voracious turtle is completely off antibiotics and is slowly on his way to recovery.
July 15, 2017: On the July 7, Hank received a physical exam which included getting an updated weigh and measurement as well as an eye check. During these routine check-ups, STCC staff is able to assess overall health and body condition. Since diets are based on weight it is important to routinely get an updated weight so the diet can be adjusted. Right now, Hank is receiving 3.0% of his body weight in various type of fish, which ends up being a little over two pounds of food a day!
August 1, 2017: Last week, Hank received a turtle check-up. We pulled a small amount of blood to run in-house blood work, performed a physical exam and got an updated weight and set of measurements. The results indicated that Hank is still thin and in need of additional time to rehabilitate and get healthier. Although definitely on the right track, it may take a few more months until Hank is ready to be released. Hank is now being fed 3.5% of his BW in hopes that the increased diet will help him gain some additional weight.
August 15, 2017: Hank will be taken offsite to Charleston Veterinary Referral Center, later this week, to receive a CT scan. This will help the vet staff better assess any potential cranial damage from the old boat strike wound. If all goes well, he will be tagged and ready for an end-of-summer release!
September 15, 2017: Hank was recently moved up to Recovery to ride out Irma! Hank was pulled for blood work last week and has has greatly improved! Hank is now back in the Sea Turtle Hospital and has been moved to a larger tank. We have increased Hank’s diet and hopefully he will be a candidate for release soon!
October 1, 2017: The STCC staff is happy to report that Hank has recently been medically cleared for release. We are hoping to release him and a few of the other patients this week! Keep an eye on the Aquarium’s social media pages for release details and information.