Java | South Carolina Aquarium


Aug 31
Java, a juvenile green sea turtle, is seen on an exam table in a vet lab. S/he has barnacles on the carapace and head, and biologists are seen in the background.


Green (Chelonia mydas)

Stranding Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
Arrival Date: 8/9/2023
Age: Juvenile
Sex: Unknown
Weight: 3.07 kg (6.75 lbs)

Case History

On August 9, a local resident spotted a juvenile green sea turtle stranded on Hilton Head Island in the pluff mud. The resident reported the turtle to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Patrol Team members responded. Thanks to the collaborative efforts from the community, this sick sea turtle was able to safely make it to the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center ™. This resilient sea turtle was given the name Java in honor of Charleston Coffee Roasters, lead sponsor of the Nutritional Care Program at the South Carolina Aquarium. This program is central to our animal care and provides sustainably sourced restaurant-quality nutrition to our animals, including patients in the Care Center.


Java arrived to the Care Center with decent energy levels, a strong heart rate, and s/he was taking decent breaths. During the turtle’s examination it was noted that s/he had a heavy barnacle load, a few lesions and appeared to be underweight. Java had strong jaw tone, meaning it was difficult to get a good look in her/his mouth. We unexpectedly found a rusty fish hook in the mouth. A radiograph was taken, and the patient was sedated in order to accomplish a safe hook removal attempt. Thankfully it was a fairly quick and easy hook removal! Unfortunately, there appears to be a lot of trauma to the mouth from this fish hook.

Since Java was already sedated, staff decided to conduct a CT scan. This diagnostic imaging showed that Java has a very full GI tract and a slight case of pneumonia. Due to all of our findings from imaging and bloodwork it was decided to start her/him on antibiotics, fluids, and calcium injections. After all medical treatments and assessments were completed, Java’s energy levels were strong and staff felt comfortable placing her/him in a tank of water. Those instincts were right because Java was swimming levelly, taking great breaths and even defecated!


September 15, 2023: After a few days in the hospital, Java’s energy levels declined significantly. Staff acted quickly, providing fluid therapy and additional antibiotics. Sea turtles tend to do better in water than they do out, so staff decided to place Java in a kiddie pool inside of the tank. This allowed for Java to be in shallow enough water that s/he did not need to use much energy to breath. After a few days in the kiddie pool, Java’s energy levels increased enough to be promoted back to a full tank. Since then, Java has progressed even more and is now in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery ™. Come check Java out in tank number 1! This patient still has a long way to go, but we are happy with Java’s progress thus far!

October 15, 2023: Java is now in a full tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™! This turtle is much brighter and more active than before. It’s always so great to see a patient turn such a big corner. We are very happy with Java’s progress thus far, but we still have several months left before we’re ready to consider Java a release candidate.

November 15, 2023: This past month Java has been enjoying a variety of enrichment! One of the favorite items seems to be a backscratcher, which is a PVC square that hooks onto the side of a tank. Did you know sea turtles have feeling in their shells? Their shells are made of bone and keratin and have nerve endings so they can feel sensations all across their body. Sea turtles in the wild scratch on rocks and corals and some more than others will scratch on their enrichment items in rehabilitation. This also has the added benefit of keeping the turtles clean! Java has been enjoying the backscratcher so much, that all of the remaining barnacles have fallen off! Come say “hey” to Java in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™!

December 15, 2023: If you have been to the Aquarium this past month you may have noticed that Java was not in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™. No need to fret, Java was doing well! We temporarily had to move Java to a different tank to accomplish necessary maintenance on the tank. Java continues to improve while in rehabilitation with us and is now back in Tank 1 in Sea Turtle Recovery!

January 15, 2024: This past month Java has seemed to particularly enjoy the sea grass enrichment. Sea grass enrichment is meant to mimic natural sea grass beds that green sea turtles often spend time resting and foraging in. Come see Java in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™, you might even see this little green turtle resting amongst some “seagrass”.

February 15, 2024: Although Java had a tough start in rehabilitation, we have seen massive improvements! Java was tagged earlier this month and we are awaiting bloodwork results to determine if this little green will be cleared for release!

February 26, 2024: Today Java made a trip to Florida’s warmer waters and was successfully released at Little Talbot Island State Park along with nine other rehabilitated patients! We’re sure that s/he will continue to find all of the nutritious snacks out in the wild. Wish Java the best of luck out in the big blue!

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