Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Stranding Location: Charleston Harbor Shipping Channel, SC
Arrival Date: 12/29/19
Weight: 2.77 kgs (6.1 pounds)
This juvenile green sea turtle was discovered after going through a hopper dredge that was operating in the Charleston Harbor Shipping Channel. When the observer spotted the turtle, they contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to arrange her transportation, via boat, to the Aquarium.
Kiara was met in the early morning hours by Michelle Pate (SCDNR) and Sea Turtle Care Center staff, who quickly began assessing her condition. The turtle had several abrasion and contusions from the sand and debris while going through the dredge. There was damage to the carapace, plastron, flippers, head, and eyes but thankfully there were no major fractures. Both eyes were swollen and the corneas appeared opaque and affected by the trauma. She was therefore started on multiple ophthalmic drops to treat the damage. Another serious concern for turtles that have been pulled through multiple depths at high speeds in a dredge is lung damage. Dr. Shane Boylan therefore CT scanned Kiara looking for any gas emboli or asymmetry in the lungs that would indicate damage. Luckily, Kiara’s lungs had normal margins and appeared to be relatively unaffected. Only one small gas emboli was observed in the kidneys and it will continue to be monitored. After being started on a treatment plan of antibiotics, fluids, vitamins, and eye drops, Kiara was placed in a shallow tub with foam and saltwater to rest overnight.
January 1, 2020: Kiara is still very lethargic and her eyelids remain swollen and mostly shut, but we have begun trying her in very a shallow pool of water. While she is still relatively inactive in water, she is able to lift her head well to take breaths. We will continue to supervise her swim time and monitor her closely. Kiara’s prognosis is guarded and we are doing all that we can for this little one.
January 15, 2020: Kiara’s activity level has improved, and we are now slowly increasing the depth of the water in her tank. The swelling of her eyelids has gone down significantly and her eyes are much more open. She is able to target her food pretty well, so we are optimistic that the corneal damage is improving. We will know more after her next exam. Some of the areas of damage on the plastron are beginning to show dead bone, so we have begun to do laser treatments on the area to promote healing. We have been increasing her diet very slowly, as she has not had a significant defecation since she arrived. Unfortunately, the small defecation she did have a few days ago, after an enema, was mostly shell material and three small pieces of hard plastic. We will continue to monitor her defecations for any further marine debris. Send some positive thoughts Kiara’s way!