Baby Bell | South Carolina Aquarium

Baby Bell

Jul 18

Baby Bell

Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Folly Beach, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 7/3/23
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 1.48 kg (3.26 lbs)

Case History

On the afternoon of July 3, Sea Turtle Care Center™ staff received a phone call from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) that a sea turtle from Folly Beach would be en route to us shortly. A little Kemp’s ridley sea turtle had been caught on a fish hook off of Folly Beach. Some wonderful beachgoers made sure the little turtle was safe and cool until Folly Beach Turtle Team members could arrive to pick up the animal. The Folly Beach Turtle Team and SCDNR transporters helped to ensure this turtle’s safe arrival at the Care Center. This little Kemp’s was a lucky one to have so many people looking out for them!


Upon arrival, Baby Bell was very active and taking great breaths. Normally, when we have a fairly active turtle on arrival, their heart rate is strong but we still wanted to take a listen just to make sure. Baby Bell’s heart rate was, in fact, strong! First, staff took a radiograph to determine the location of the ingested fish hook. Diagnostic imaging showed us that the hook did not appear too deep in the esophagus. On exam, we found that the turtle is skinny, has some abrasions, bruising on the plastron and has microphthalmia, meaning the left eye is smaller than normal. None of these issues were serious, but continue to keep an eye on them. As with all admits, vet staff took a small blood sample to see what medications may be needed. This showed us the lactate levels were not too high and that the turtle was slightly anemic. Based on the lactate levels, we were able to determine that Baby Bell was not too stressed to attempt a hook removal. Our team used light sedation and was able to remove the fish hook without surgery in 11 minutes! We are always grateful for a quick removal — go team! After we gave Baby Bell some time to recover from being sedated, we were comfortable enough with their energy level to water test them. Baby Bell dove straight to the bottom of the tank and was taking great breaths. Needless to say, we were happy with those behaviors!


July 12, 2023: With any turtle who has ingested a fish hook we hold off on offering food for a few days in order to give the wound in the mouth some time to heal. While we are not offering food, we supplement the turtle with fluids. After a couple of days of healing, Baby Bell has started eating! And defecating! Two things we love to see in rehab. This tiny nugget is already making big strides in their rehabilitation. We hope they have a quick and easy recovery!

July 15, 2023: Staff noticed that when Baby Bell is eating there is a visual deficit of the left eye. Bell is only eating food that is on the right side of the tank, even if there is a fish piece very close to their left side. We were expecting a potential visual impairment based on the microphthalmia, and this is a strong indicator that the left eye is not as visual as it should be. Even with this impairment, Baby Bell is able to forage very well for all of their food pieces. We will keep a close eye on Baby Bell for any changes!

August 15, 2023: Baby Bell has finished all of their antibiotic injections! Over these past few weeks, this patient has continued to make good progress. Baby Bell does not seem to have a favorite enrichment item, but we are on the look out to find the winner. Continue to wish Baby Bell the best of luck!

September 15, 2023: Baby Bell had a big month! Baby Bell was moved to a bigger tank and was tagged in preparation for release! We are still waiting on bloodwork results to determine if Baby Bell is ready to go home. Fingers crossed!

September 26, 2023: Baby Bell was released at Folly Beach County Park today! We are very excited that Baby Bell has healed so well and is able to go home. Wish Baby Bell the best of luck back out in the big blue!

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