Darla | South Carolina Aquarium


May 27


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Charleston SC Shipping Entrance Channel

Arrival Date: 5/20/2017

Age: Juvenile

Weight: 42.0 kg (88 pounds)

Case History

Darla was found by the research vessel the Lady Lisa, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) trawl boat. Every year, SCDNR does an annual series of trawls to help access the overall health of the sea turtle populations off the coast of South Carolina. Darla was brought in with similar injuries to Jerry, another patient admit earlier that day. Darla had fresh boat strike wounds on several places throughout her body. The most significant injury was a propeller wound that was across the back of the skull.


Upon admit, Darla was bleeding from the boat strike injury. Additional injuries included one that sliced through the jaw on the left side of her face, a small laceration on the inside of her left eyelid and an open laceration on the right side of her body under the right, front flipper. Luckily, all injuries missed major organs, blood vessels and narrowly missed her left eye! Darla was very active and needed to be sedated for our vet team to pull blood and treat the injuries. After sedation kicked in, Darla’s head wound was cleaned, small bone fragments were removed and it was partially closed with sutures. The wound underneath the right, front flipper was also cleaned and sutured, and the other smaller lacerations were treated with topical antibiotic ointments. Darla was started on antibiotics and received fluids and vitamins overnight. She was placed in shallow water the next morning.


May 25, 2017: For the last few days, Darla has received pain management drugs to help relieve any pain or discomfort she may have from the boat strike injuries. Darla started eating 2 days after admit and has been a very active and feisty patient. She will receive weekly wound treatments along with antibiotic injections to help fight any infections from the boat strike injuries.

June 5, 2017: Darla is one of our most feisty patients, so we have to keep a close eye when handling her. Darla received a physical exam this week by Dr. Julie Cavin. Her wounds were debrided, and Dr. Cavin removed pieces of bone, tissue and debris. Darla’s wounds are starting to shows signs of healing, but it will most likely be a long process. Luckily, Darla came to the Sea Turtle Care Center in good body condition and appears to be a fighter. Unfortunately, Darla is not eating as well as we hoped. She is reluctant to go after food, possibly due to the injury on the right side of her jaw or potentially some deficit in her vision. We have pain management drugs on board to help keep her more comfortable, and she is receiving an antibiotic injection biweekly. On Friday, she was moved into one of the 1,000 gallon, filtered tanks in the Sea Turtle Hospital, where she will be monitored closely. Darla is on the list to receive a CT scan to help determine the severity of her head injury. Darla, despite her feisty attitude and perseverance, still has a lot of healing left to do.

June 15, 2017: Darla was having a really difficult time eating and was not interested in food. Due to the propeller injury behind her skull, staff was concerned that there may be neurological issues involved with her inability to locate food. Another concern was that the slice injury to her jaw was too painful for her to open her mouth. Luckily, Darla finally started eating her diets at the end of last week, and we are continuing to increase them! Darla will receive a CT scan in the next few weeks to better assess the injuries caused by the propeller wounds.

July 3, 2017: Darla is healing up well from her boat strike injury! Darla is no longer on any antibiotics and is continuing to make good progress. Our vet staff will do a physical exam to evaluate the status of her wounds. Darla is one of our pickier patients when it comes to fish; she will only eat mackerel and salmon and will not eat any other fish type.

July 15, 2017: Darla continues to make great progress and is healing up nicely from her boat strike wounds! The wound behind her skull has a nice thick layer of fibrin (hard scab material) covering the injured tissue. We are staying as hands-off as possible to reduce stress, and we are only pulling Darla for a monthly weight and physical exam at this point. Way to go, Darla!

August 1, 2017: Darla’s boat strike wounds continue to heal and improve weekly! We are just giving Darla more time for the wounds to completely heal before preparing to release her.

August 15, 2017: Darla recently received a physical exam by Dr. Julie Cavin and is healing up extremely well! Darla just needs a little more time to heal before receiving a pre-release exam. Darla arrived with some serious boat strike wounds so we are so proud of how far she’s come!

Release Date

September 6, 2017

Release Location

Folly Beach County Park

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