Grace | South Carolina Aquarium


Feb 01


Green (Chelonia mydas)

Stranding Location: Awendaw, SC

Arrival Date: 1/25/2016

Age: juvenilevWeight: 2.52 kg (5.5 lb.)

Case History

This small juvenile green sea turtle was found floating and minimally responsive in the Intracoastal Waterway in Awendaw, SC. Fortunately for this little turtle s/he was lucky enough to strand right off the dock of Grace Gasper, the Executive Director of Friends of Coastal South Carolina. Grace and her boyfriend Andy Day, a wildlife biologist, happened to be out on her dock before sunset when they spotted the listless sea turtle. These two environmentalist were able to identify this abnormal behavior and went to further investigate on kayak. Upon closer examination it was apparent that the turtle was weak and cold as it made no attempt to swim away. After the turtle was safely rescued the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources was contacted and the turtle was quickly brought to the aquarium. Hospital staff have affectionately named the fourth patient of 2016 after rescuer and fellow conservationist Grace Gasper.


Permitted sea turtle transporter, Mary Pringle, brought Grace to the the aquarium at 7:30 pm Monday night. Hospital staff and veterinarian came in after hours in order to stabilize our newest patient. Upon admission they performed a physical examination, took radiographs, administered fluids, vitamins, and antibiotics. She had a lowered heart rate of 16 beats per minute (BPM), and a body temperature of 54.8.° Despite the decrease in local water temperatures over the past two weeks, Grace was in relatively good body condition and blood values were within normal limits. Staff dry docked her overnight on wet foam, and slowly increased the ambient temperature by a few degrees the following day. Further rehabilitation will include support care, and time. Prognosis is good.


27 January 2016: This morning Grace was placed in two feet of 75° brackish water in one of the hospital’s 700 gallon tanks. She is active, swims well, and is able to come up easily for air. In order to help her acclimate staff will hold off on feeding her until later this week.v

28 January 2016: Grace received her second dose of antibiotics today, and is often seen resting peacefully on the bottom of her tank. Staff is hopeful she will make a full recovery.

10 February 2016: Grace is doing very well, and is now in a full tank of water at a higher salinity. She is also proving to be quite the energizer bunny as she is always on the move! As an omnivorous juvenile green sea turtle she is being offered, and ravenously eating, a nice balanced diet of fish and romaine lettuce. Yesterday, repeat radiographs were taken in-house and showed no signs of pneumonia, which is great news.

13 April 2016: Unfortunately, Grace has taken a turn for the worst since early February. Although she initially defecated a few times right after admission, we became concerned when she stopped passing any fecal material. Radiographs (x-rays) and a CT scan (donated by Charleston Veterinary Referral Center) showed her intestinal tract was full of food and gas, but nothing was moving. Grace appeared to have an impaction, likely a result of her being cold-stunned. Without treatment, an impaction can result in death.

©Sea Turtle Rescue Program Medical Procedure Grace February 25 2016 (19)

In February, our vet tube-fed Grace a contrast medium called Gastroview, a liquid that shows up clearly in x-rays. Over the course of the next two months, we were still able to observe Gastroview in periodic x-rays and confirm her GI wasn’t functioning properly. During this time, our team implemented multiple treatments to try to resolve the impaction, including numerous endoscopy-guided enemas that enabled us to flush partially digested plant matter, squid beaks, sand, and several pieces of plastic out of her lower colon. Despite these treatments, Grace continued to decline.

On April 5th, our team decided surgery was our best and last option to save Grace. Dr. Boylan skillfully externalized the portion of Grace’s intestines where we believe the impaction was. Using a small plastic tube, we were able to flush a lot of fecal matter out of a section of intestine approximately 20” in length. In addition, our vet removed a piece of clear, sheet-like plastic approximately the size of a silver dollar. This piece of plastic is large enough to cause an impaction in a little sea turtle and we are hopeful we’ve removed the root of Grace’s problem. Currently, Grace is back in her tank and resting comfortably. We are tube-feeding her very small amounts of liquid containing spirulina and maintaining her on fluids and antibiotics. Only time will tell if Grace will make a full recovery.


19 April 2016: Since her surgery, Grace has been spending the past couple weeks conserving her energy and resting on top of a PVC “backscratcher” which is serving as the perfect platform. Today marked a small milestone as we were able to offer Grace her first piece of solid food since surgery, a small leaf of romaine lettuce, which she eagerly devoured!

5 May 2016: Grace is doing much better! She is now passing feces, which is a great sign that the surgery has indeed resolved the impaction. Grace is being fed a variety of greens as well as a few pieces of smelt – this little turtle is definitely not shy about eating! For such a small turtle she has a big appetite and voraciously devours her meal within a matter of minutes. Grace is now able to dive down and rest on the bottom of the tank, something we have not observed her doing in some time. These improvements are all great signs, and staff is quite happy with the progress this little turtle has made!

Grace and veggies

24 May 2016: This young, energetic turtle loves swimming around in her tank and taking naps nestled up in her “seaweed” enrichment. We will be scheduling for a pre-release blood work check-up in hopes of releasing her in the summer!

18 June 2016: Grace is an eating machine! In order to help increase her weight and body condition she is being fed at 4.0% of her body weight. Even though this is a generous portion size Grace is always eating every last tiny morsel and constantly “begging” for more. Staff is pleased with her appetite and activity level, and we are hopeful that she will be released this year!

Release Date

July 29, 2016

Release Location

Isle of Palms County Park

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