Kiara | South Carolina Aquarium


Jan 06


Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Stranding Location: Charleston Harbor Shipping Channel, SC
Arrival Date: 12/29/19
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 2.77 kgs (6.1 pounds)

Case History

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!

February 1, 2020: Since our last update, Kiara is now on a maintenance diet and is almost swimming at a full tank.  She did end up defecating more micro plastics, but her fecals have been clear over the last 2 weeks which is great news! However, she has some necrotic bone on her plastron and head caused by the impact trauma of going through the dredge. So, we have been doing cold laser therapy to help the keratin and bone heal when she’s out for antibiotic injections.

February 15, 2020: Kiara is now at a full tank of water, and is pooping it up! She will be getting another physical exam by our veterinary staff to remove the dead bone from her plastron and head. Other than that, she just needs time for those areas to heal!

March 1, 2020: Kiara had her checkup with our veterinary staff, and a good amount of the dead bone from her head and plastron was debrided. Her wounds are healing well and she is slowly gaining weight. Kiara was moved up to a larger tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery, where guests can now see her progress and her improvements firsthand!

March 15, 2020: With the help of antibiotics, clean system water, and UV lights, Kiara’s wounds are healing well and starting to keratinize with pigment. Kiara is eating great and gaining weight. She has come a long way!

April 1, 2020: Kiara is beginning to look like a whole new turtle! The abrasions, and impact wounds from going through the dredge are almost fully healed. Kiara just needs time and good nutrition to put on weight so her body can fully heal. Kiara loves her veggies, and is not at all picky like some of our other patients (…looking at you Michael Myers). 

May 1, 2020: Kiara was pulled for preliminary pre-release bloodwork this week along with a physcial exam and weight check. Kiara’s weight and body condition is perfect, and she is on track to be a release candidate in the near future!

May 15, 2020: We are happy to report that Kiara was returned to the wild by boat into a secure salt marsh location. Way to go, Kiara! 

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