Meet Cheddar | South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center


Sep 19


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Charleston, SC
Arrival Date: 9/6/23
Age: Juvenile
Sex: Unknown
Weight: 2.97 kg (6.55 lbs)

Case History

Cheddar is a juvenile Kemp’s ridley that was caught by hook and line at the Charleston Battery and was reported to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). An SCDNR volunteer was able to respond quickly and help the angler pull up the turtle with a hoop net. It turned out that the hook was caught in the back of the turtle’s head rather than in the mouth! In addition to the head wound, Cheddar looked to have been involved in a predator encounter, with multiple lesions and abrasion all over her/his body. The sea turtle was quickly transported to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center™ for further assessment of the injuries.


Once at the Care Center, Cheddar received radiographs to ensure there were no other hooks consumed. Diagnostic imaging showed that there were no other hooks! Upon physical examination, Cheddar looked pretty rough. In addition to the hook wound on the back of the head, there were rake markings and puncture-like wounds on the body, indicating a recent predator encounter (such as a shark). Multiple healing lesions were seen on the neck, carapace and plastron, some with exposed bone and fibrin. The wounds were flushed and cleaned with antiseptic solution. Some of the deeper puncture wounds with exposed bone and the hook head wound were also covered with a topical antibacterial ointment. Cheddar was given fluids, vitamins and antibiotic injections. Luckily, Cheddar came in pretty lively and vet staff cleared them to be moved to a tank soon after the intake treatments. Cheddar was placed in a full tank and adjusted quickly, taking good breaths and swimming levelly in the water column.


September 15, 2023: Cheddar is settling into her/his new environment. S/he defecated the day after being placed in the tank, which is always a good sign. It took a couple more days for Cheddar to feel comfortable enough to eat. Entering a new environment can be a little overwhelming for anyone, even new sea turtle patients. It can take some patients a little more time to adjust than others. Now that Cheddar is eating, her/his diet will be slowly increased to a healthy amount based on her/his body weight.

October 15, 2023: Cheddar has been doing very well in rehab! All of the small predator wounds have healed nicely and we are keeping a close eye on a spot on the neck that has a little more healing to do. Overall, Cheddar is eating well and is defecating. Hopefully sometime in the near future Cheddar will move up to Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™.

November 15, 2023: Cheddar’s wounds are continuing to heal and look better every month. This past month, Cheddar moved upstairs to Tank 5 in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™. Come visit us at the South Carolina Aquarium to see this adorable Kemp’s ridley!

December 15, 2023: Cheddar seems to favor the cube enrichment best! Often times we see Cheddar sleeping under the structure and scratching on it regularly. Visit today and see if you can find Cheddar interacting with different enrichment items each week!

January 15, 2024: Cheddar continues to eat everything offered and is a model patient at taking vitamins! With continued weight gain, we are hoping that Cheddar will be a potential candidate for release in the coming months.

February 15, 2024: Cheddar looks like a different turtle compared to her/his arrival! All predator wounds are barely visible and we have seen properly expected weight gain. Cheddar was tagged earlier this month and we are awaiting bloodwork results to determine if this little Kemp’s ridley will be cleared for release!

February 26, 2024: Today Cheddar made a trip to Florida’s warmer waters and was successfully released at Little Talbot Island State Park along with nine other rehabilitated patients! Wish Cheddar the best of luck out in the big blue!

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