Fawkes | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 16


Green (Chelonia mydas)

Stranding Location: Bulls Island, SC

Arrival Date: 7/10/18

Age: Juvenile

Weight: 5.4 kg (12 lbs)

Case History

This young juvenile green sea turtle was spotted floating near the dock on Bulls Island by Captain Lee Taylor. Being an experienced fishing guide, he knew right away that this turtle was in need of medical attention. Fawkes had an older boat-strike injury to the top of his shell and was unable to dive and swim away. Captain Lee Taylor got in contact with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and coordinated to drop off the turtle at the Isle of Palms Marina. A short boat ride later and Fawkes was handed off to employees of Barrier Island Eco Tours who kept a watchful eye on him until SCDNR volunteer transporters, Mary Pringle and Barb Gobien, arrived. This dynamic duo has brought the Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) multiple turtles this year and are no strangers to sea turtle conservation. Mary is the leader of the Island Turtle Team, and Barb Gobien is a member of the team and a long-time Sea Turtle Care Center volunteer. Gratitude all around for people working together to help save sea turtles in South Carolina!


Fawkes received the VIP treatment as he was triaged by both our Chief and Associate Veterinarians, Dr. Shane Boylan and Dr. Bryan Vorbach. Upon admission, Fawkes wounds were assessed and flushed with sterile saline. He was given fluids, antibiotics and vitamins. The boat strike was already starting to heal, so Dr. Boylan speculates that it is a minimum of one to two weeks old. Fawkes has some use of his hind flippers, a promising sign as the strike goes over the vertebral scutes in two places, just above the spine. A CT scan was taken, which revealed a tremendous amount of gastrointestinal gas. This would definitely explain the buoyancy disorder and inability to dive. It is possible that the strike is interfering with GI motility leading to ileus (buildup of food material) and creating a potential blockage. Fawkes received an enema in hopes of moving the GI contents along. He was later placed in very shallow water down in ICU.


July 12, 2018: Fawkes continues to rest comfortably in shallow water. We are currently holding off on feeding until a fecal is produced. At which time we will start to slowly offer small amounts of fish and veggies.

July 15, 2018: Fawkes will be receiving another enema on Monday to help move along GI contents.

August 1, 2018: Fawkes is doing well. He was recently moved into a new tank, and this tank has a window and additional filtration. Fawkes loves to spend his days lounging in his seaweed enrichment, made out of car wash strips.

August 15, 2018: Fawkes is next up to receive weights to help offset his caudal buoyancy. Velcro and small weights will be applied this week.

September 1, 2018: Fawkes is doing well, and loves eating his veggies. We are waiting for a few areas on his shell to heal, before applying the velcro and weights. We are hoping to replicate what has worked for Luna and are hopeful that we will have similar results and success.

October 1, 2018: Recently, Fawkes also has some weights attached to the back of his carapace with Velcro, like Luna! Fawkes is now in a tank with deeper water and is able to dive and rest comfortably on the bottom of his tank.

October 15, 2018: Fawkes, much like Luna, continues to be caudally buoyant and remains in shallow water. Staff continues to perfect the amount of weight needed to keep him as level as possible.

November 1, 2018: Fawkes is one our newest patients in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery! You can now visit Fawkes and see the weight pouch therapy we are using to help him maintain neutral buoyancy when he’s swimming and diving.

November 15, 2018: Fawkes’ weight pouch recently fell off, so he was pulled last week so staff could reattach it. While reattaching the weight pouch, the vet team did a checkup. The last CT showed a gas pocket in Fawkes’ GI track, so the vet team was curious if they could get the air out. We think that because his spinal cord was hit by the boat, Fawkes could have issues defecating, which could be causing the gas build up. They gave Fawkes an enema to try and push out as much fecal as possible. Then vet staff took another CT to see if it made a difference in the air pocket, but they didn’t notice a change. Fawkes now has a weight pouch on each side to help with his trouble floating. We’re adjusting the weight inside them to help him comfortably rest on the bottom and swim throughout the water column.

December 1, 2018: Fawkes is continuing to have weight therapy to help his buoyancy problems. We’ve adjusted the placement of the weights to see if this will help him maintain his buoyancy. Fawkes is still in a tank with low water in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. Make sure to come see him today!

December 15, 2018: Fawkes is doing great! Staff recently increased her water level and she’s handling it very well. She loves to eat her all her veggies her favorite is dandelion greens!

January 1, 2019: Fawkes seems to be controlling her buoyancy a little better than she had been in the past. She’s continuing to devour her greens and LOVES her head tube. She’s always sleeping in it!

January 15, 2019: Fawkes received an MRI at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center to better access the injury to her spine. She is able to control her buoyancy much better than when she was first admitted so our vet team wanted to see how her spine is healing. We are waiting on imaging to come back on that, but Fawkes is doing great.

February 1, 2019: Fawkes is doing great! She’s been eating very well and definitely defecates well. Her favorite veggies are dandelion greens, and she loves resting in her head tube. Her weight pouches fall off every now and then, so we have to reattach her weights so that she can remain happy on the bottom! She’s grown so much since she’s been in our care! She now weighs a hefty 16.5 pounds and has grown roughly 3 centimeters since July!

February 15, 2019: Fawkes continues to eat great and defecates up a storm. Her water level keeps changing. She made it up to a half tank! Then her weights fell off, and she had to go back down to a low tank. Fawkes is able to rest very comfortably on the bottom with her weights, but once they fall off her butt starts to float up again. Even without her weights, Fawkes tries her hardest to stay in her head tube.

March 1, 2019: Fawkes was pulled the other day to have her weight pouches added back on. The coral glue only lasts so long before we have to redo it. She’s in great body condition and has grown so much in her time with us.

March 15, 2019: Fawkes has been getting a little exercise by going into our big exercise tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. This tank has jets that are able to push water through them, creating a strong current. We want to observe how well Fawkes is able to swim in a deeper tank with a current. Since Fawkes has Bubble Butt Syndrome, she could be deemed non-releasable. If we are able to see that Fawkes is able to maintain her buoyancy while swimming and resting without weights on, then she could potentially be a release candidate. Right now we have only tried swimming Fawkes with her weights on. Fawkes seems very comfortable and relaxed when she’s put into the big tank. She’s able to maintain her buoyancy perfectly while she swims. Whenever Fawkes slows down or rests, she begins to float back up. We hope that, with time, Fawkes will be able to maintain her buoyancy swimming or resting without her weights.

April 1, 2019: Fawkes continues to get exercised in our exercise tank daily. During his exercise we observe how he swims, uses his flippers and his ability to control his buoyancy. We have seen an improvement in his ability to swim and will continue this treatment. We will start exercises without weight pouches attached to see if he can swim well without them.

April 15, 2019: Fawkes continues to spend a few hours daily in our exercise tank. We are in the process of building him a weight harness that we can strap to him so that we don’t have to constantly reattach his weights as they fall off. A few prototypes are in the works, and we are hoping to have something made for him soon. Other than that, he’s doing pretty good!

May 4, 2019: Since our last update, we had a weight pouch belt made and tried it out on Fawkes. We have to make some adjustments to it, so we reattached the weights directly to his carapace again. Other than that, Fawkes is getting swim therapy in our exercise tank several times throughout the week.

May 15, 2019: Fawkes is still getting swim time in our exercise tank throughout the week. We are still working on a harness for him. In the meantime, he continues to get stronger from his exercise.

June 15, 2019: We had a new weight belt made for Fawkes and have been testing. He is taking some time to adjust to it, but it works well!

August 1, 2019: We are continuing to try new approaches to deal with Fawkes’s buoyancy issues. We have been swimming him in the exercise tank daily, most recently with the weight belt off, to test his buoyancy in the deeper tank. With assistance from the jets, Fawkes can stay level at the bottom for short periods of time while swimming, but he usually becomes posteriorly buoyant when resting.

September 1, 2019: In preparation for Hurricane Dorian, we needed to move Sarabi, a large loggerhead turtle, into the exercise tank. So for the time being Fawkes is back in his old pool downstairs and doing well. It is a shallower tank, so he is able to maintain a decent buoyancy level, even without his weight belt on.

October 1, 2019: Fawkes continues to rest in a tank in the ICU at a lower water level to help him with his buoyancy issues. Our exercise tank is down for routine repairs, but once it’s back up and running, we are hoping to move him into that tank.

November 1, 2019: Fawkes has had an exciting month. As you know, Fawkes has buoyancy issues as a result of an oldboat-strike injury. Even though his spine appears normal, some of his nerves were damaged from the injury. To help his body repair nerve function, Dr. Shane injected some of Fawkes’ own stem cells (grown by VetStem) into his spinal cord. The goal is that the stem cells will migrate to the spinal cord areas that are damaged. Fawkes was moved into a larger tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery so he could have more space and a deeper tank. Soon, our exercise tank will be back up and running, and when it is, Fawkes will be moved there so he can get lots of exercise!

November 15, 2019: Fawkes is back in the exercise tank! He is now wearing his weighted harness during the day, but we remove it at night in case he gets into a pickle (turtles are really good at doing at that when no one is around). We are hoping this increase in exercise and a deeper tank will help him with his buoyancy.

December 15, 2019: Fawkes is doing a pretty good job at maneuvering around the exercise tank, but he is still having some buoyancy issues at times. Just keep swimming, buddy!

February 1, 2020: Fawkes has been doing really well in the exercise tank, and is really good at controlling his buoyancy with his weighted pouch on. However, we are planning to do another injection of his own stem cells to see if there’s any improvement in the use of his rear flippers.

February 15, 2020: Last week, Fawkes received another injection of his very own stem cells. Though we haven’t seen much of a change in the use of his rear flipper since his last stem cell injection, we decided to give it another try since we were already getting them for another patient as well.

March 15, 2020: Last week we re-epoxied weight pouches onto Fawkes’ carapace to give him a break from using the harness. The weight pouches are holding steady, and we don’t need to pull him as often to adjust them.

April 1, 2020: Fawkes’s epoxied weight pouches are holding steady and have not had to replaced. We are very pleased to see this process work better for him, as we do not have to handle him as often.

May 1, 2020: After close to two months, Fawkes’ weight pouches finally came off and needed to be replaced. Green sea turtles have very smooth shells, which makes it difficult to attach things. Over the years, we have tried several different methods and epoxies to attach weight pouches to turtles’ carapaces for buoyancy control. We have been having good success with the latest material we have tried, so we are hopeful the pouches will continue to stay on for longer periods of time. This reduces the amount of handling we need to do, which is good because Fawkes is getting larger and stronger every day!

June 1, 2020: We have been having pretty good success keeping the weight pouches on Fawkes’ shell, which help him maintain better buoyancy and positioning in the water column. Fawkes is a great eater and has been getting lots of exercise in his large tank!

July 15, 2020: Not much new to report with Fawkes. We have been reapplying the weight pouches as needed and adding or removing weights to adjust to any buoyancy shifts that might occur. Fawkes is eating great, and loves to take naps in his seaweed enrichment!

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