Elsa | South Carolina Aquarium


Dec 10


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Arrival Date: 11/29/2021
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 1.42 kg (3.1 lbs)

Case History

Elsa stranded on Ryder Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts due to cold stunning. They were transported to the New England Aquarium they received fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. After a few days at the New England Aquarium, Turtles Fly Too pilot, Ed Filangeri, and co-pilot, Glenn Knoblach, picked up over 40 sea turtles and flew them to rehabilitation facilities in North Carolina, Georgia and to us at the South Carolina Aquarium. It truly takes a village to rehabilitate sea turtles!


Elsa was one of eight sea turtles transported to us from the New England Aquarium for treatment. Elsa stranded only a few days before transport, so their body temperature was checked after they were loaded into the turtle ambulance, along with their heart rate and breathing. Elsa did great during the transport, and their body temperature was in the lower 60s. We made sure to set our exam room to a lower temperature to avoid a drastic rise in body temperature during the admit process. Elsa had a normal heart rate but was very quiet during the admit process. They received fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. The vet team took x-rays, pulled bloodwork and conducted a full physical exam. X-rays showed a pretty significant amount of gas and sand in Elsa’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. We then left Elsa to rest comfortably in a foam-padded bin in the hallway and slowly increased their body temperature so we could move them to a tank in the ICU.


December 9, 2021: After triage, Elsa was moved into a divided shallow water tank in the basement ICU with Anna. Elsa’s left side started floating the day after admit. Since she was going to be out for an antibiotic injection, we decided to do a CT to evaluate the gas present in their GI tract and make sure nothing else more serious was going on. Luckily, it appeared that the gas in the GI tract was likely being caused by the sand they had ingested. The following day, we observed them resting flat on the bottom indicating they had likely passed the gas; there was also a sandy defecation in her section of the tank. Since then, Elsa has been eating well and is still receiving antibiotics. We are slowly increasing their water level as they get stronger.

January 15, 2022: All of the gas and listing that Elsa was doing due to ingested sand has since passed, and they have been back to normal buoyancy. Elsa received a follow-up CT scan a few weeks after admit to make sure that the gas resolved. Elsa has also finished up their course of antibiotics as well. Elsa is eating and defecating normally and is doing well overall. We are now giving Elsa time to gain weight and recover from being cold stunned.

February 15, 2022: Elsa has had their check-ups with our vet decreased to once a month instead of once every other week which is great! Their re-check CT scan showed a large amount of fecal material in their GI tract, but since then they have “let it go” and are defecating often. Overall, Elsa looks great and continues to recover.

March 15, 2022: Not much has changed with Elsa since our last update. Since Elsa had pneumonia upon admit, we chose to keep them a little longer than their other cold-stunned buddies. We will monitor Elsa’s condition monthly until we are ready to release them later this year. Overall, Elsa is looking very good, which we are very happy about.

April 15, 2022: Since we have recently released many patients, Elsa was moved to a new tank! You can now meet Elsa in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™. Elsa was moved up the first-floor hospital to have a little more space to swim around. Elsa is very healthy now, and we will likely begin evaluating them for release in a few more weeks.

May 15, 2022: This “Frozen sister” has been looking great! They were pulled for pre-release bloodwork and tagging this week. Once we receive the bloodwork results, we will decide if they are ready to be released!

May 25, 2022: Elsa was finally “let go” today! They were released at Folly Beach County Park with a crowd of people cheering them on. Send Elsa your good thoughts!

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