Belton | South Carolina Aquarium


Jun 29


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location:Hilton Head, SC

Arrival Date: 06/13/2015

Age: Juvenile

Weight: 35.0 kg (~77 lb.)

Case History

This spring has been our busiest stranding season ever! This juvenile loggerhead sea turtle is the fifth stranded sea turtle we’ve admitted this month alone, and the eighteenth sea turtle we’ve admitted this year. Named “Belton” in honor of an elementary school in Belton, SC, that has helped many of our patients through their read-a-thon fundraisers over the years, this emaciated loggerhead arrived suffering from severe emaciation and a necrotic (dying) right front flipper. Although we aren’t sure what caused Belton’s flipper injury, we’ve seen this before in turtles that have had ropes or fishing line wrapped tightly around their flipper at the shoulder region.


Staff were ready and waiting to admit Belton as soon as s/he arrived at noon on Saturday, June 13th. Belton was carefully placed on comfortable foam padding and remained fairly quiet during all admission procedures and treatments. The heart rate was a weak 10 beats per minute initially, but improved to 20 beats per minute after hetastarch was given directly into the bloodstream. Staff administered subcutaneous fluids to help rehydrate Belton, as well as injectable antibiotics and vitamins. The flipper was treated with cold laser therapy, a non-invasive treatment which will continue for the time being. Prognosis is guarded, and we are unsure if we are going to be able to save part or all of the flipper.


22 June 2015:Blood work performed on the 15th was not encouraging; hematocrit was 5% and total solids were at a potentially lethal level of 0.4. However, as of the 22nd, Belton is eating her small diet well and is slowly becoming less lethargic in her filtered tank. Numerous small bones have shed from the necrotic flipper as it’s died back but, overall, the remaining tissues of the flipper are starting to look better (i.e. less slimy and stringy). Intensive treatments and cold laser therapy will continue, and we are hopeful this loggerhead will pull through.

12 August 2015: This loggerhead is very feisty and a favorite among our guests. We’ve continued laser therapy and the damaged flipper is healing quite well. While there is no sign of remaining infection and all of the necrotic tissue has sloughed off, the majority of the front of the humerus bone is still exposed. However, we are hopeful that, with the help of our treatments, healthy tissues will completely envelop the exposed bone soon.

12 January 2016: This New Year has started off well for the Sea Turtle Hospital. Many of the patients that have been in our care for over six months are much improved and nearing the home stretch in their recovery process. One such turtle is Belton. This loggerhead received his/her physical exam today, which was performed by hospital staff members and the aquarium’s veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan. Dr. Boylan noted that the right front flipper is almost healed to the point of being releasable. The decision was made last summer to refrain from amputating the limb as it was responding well to cold laser therapy, and if the turtle is a female, the remaining portion of the flipper will be helpful for future nesting. After laser therapy was discontinued in September, hospital staff and volunteers have been continuing to provide Belton with supportive care. This includes monitoring the turtle’s behavior, appetite, and healing process closely, as well as taking bi-monthly weights and measurements, and feeding a nutrient rich diet of fish at 2% of his/her body weight. The data collected today has shown a healthy weight increase of 7 pounds since admit, making Belton now 42.76 kg (94 lbs). Blood was drawn for a check-up and blood values were looking good with a Packed Cell Volume (PCV) of 31% and a Total Solids (TS) of 4.4 g/dl. These numbers are much improved from the admit PCV of 5% and TS of 0.4 g/dl back in June. Various blood values are assessed and evaluated before a patient is cleared for release, but these two values are definitely a good indicator of overall health. We are very happy with the progress and are hopeful that Belton will be released in the upcoming months!

Belton Comparison

Release Date


Release Location

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Palm Coast, FL


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