Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
Arrival Date: 9/5/2022
Weight: 2.89 kg (6.3lbs)
Jo was caught on hook and line on Hilton Head Island, SC. Amber Kuehn, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) team member and leader of the Hilton Head Island Patrol Team, responded to the stranding call and transported this little Kemp’s ridley halfway to Charleston. From there, Meredith Bean, SCDNR technician, drove Jo to the South Carolina Aquarium for treatment.
Jo was named in honor of Charleston Coffee Roasters, a local business who shares in our commitment to protect this sentinel species. As lead sponsor of the Charleston Coffee Roasters Nutritional Care Program, they help provide nutritional care for Jo and all of the animals that call the Aquarium home.
At admit, Jo was described as “spicy,” meaning they were very alert and active. Unfortunately, Jo’s fishing line was cut short, but there was a small amount of it sticking out of the mouth. We typically prefer it when the line is cut long, as it is easier for vet staff to remove the hook when there is more line to work with. Admitting staff took an x-ray to evaluate the location of the hook and to determine if there were any others. The x-ray showed that the J-hook was located deep in the distal esophagus.
Following the x-rays, a blood sample was obtained along with an overall exam, heart rate and measurements. Bloodwork indicated that Jo had some mild respiratory acidosis, likely from breathing issues due to the hook. Jo’s values were stable, so our vet team decided Jo was well enough to remove the hook at admit. Jo was sedated and given fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. While under sedation, our vet team attempted to remove the hook orally before taking a surgical approach. Luckily, after about 30 minutes, the hook was successfully removed without surgery! Jo’s heart rate and respiration rate remained stable throughout the removal process.
Once the hook was removed, Jo was given a drug to reverse the sedation medication and increase their activity level. Staff monitored the turtle’s recovery closely. After about an hour, Jo was very active and taking great breaths. Given the size of the hook, pain management drugs were given to help alleviate any soreness or pain from the removal and to help keep them calm overnight. Jo was left resting comfortably in a foam waterbed.
September 6, 2022: The following morning, Jo was very bright, alert and ready for a swim test! Before being moved into a tank, they were given fluids and an anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce the swelling from the hook trauma. Once in a tank, Jo began swimming and diving normally. Jo will be fasted over the next few days to allow time for the throat and esophagus to heal before being offered food. They will receive fluids to help keep them hydrated and pain management drugs to ensure they’re comfortable over the next few days.
October 15, 2022: Jo has been a perfect patient thus far! They eat like a champ and are very active. Last week, Jo finished the last round of their antibiotic injections. You can now visit Jo up in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™; they are often seen swimming in and out of their enrichment!
November 15, 2022: Jo is one of our more active patients! We are happy to see that they are showing such great energy levels. Hopefully you are here on a day when they get a “fish pop.” This is when we freeze pieces of fish in cubes, just like a popsicle! They seem to love playing with the fish pops and carrying them around underwater in their mouth until it melts!
January 15, 2023: Jo continues to be a star up in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery, hitting all their rehabilitation benchmarks. They’ve healed well and are eating and gaining weight like we hoped they would, which is all great news for their recovery!
February 15, 2023: This little Kemp’s was able to make a quick recovery in rehab! Based on bloodwork, a physical exam, a well-rounded diet and many other bench marks, it was decided that it was time for Jo to go home! They made the trek down to Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, Florida to be released in warmer waters along with eight of their turtle friends. Wish them luck out in the big blue!