Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Cape Cod Bay, MA
Arrival Date: 11/27/22
Weight: (4.8 lbs)
This turtle is one of many that stranded up in the New England area due to cold stunning, the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia. New England Aquarium admits hundreds of turtles during the colder winter months; this year, we were able to take in 15 of these turtles to help lighten their load. We coordinate with New England Aquarium and a non-profit called Turtles Fly Too to transport the turtles here. Many thanks to pilot Steve Bernstein and his son Owen for flying them from New England down to Charleston!
During Libra’s triage assessment in the van en route from the airport we noted a lower heart rate than usual. Their body temperature was still only 67–68° which can result in a slowed heart rate. While it quickly normalized, we wanted to assess as soon as we arrived at the Aquarium. The team jumped into action, quickly taking bloodwork and radiographs, which revealed that the right lung was smaller than the left, and there was a moderate case of pneumonia throughout both lungs. There were also indications of enteritis, where the lobes of the intestines become very thickened. Libra was given fluids and antibiotics and allowed to rest for a bit until strong enough to test in water. When we tried them in a tank., we noticed a slight buoyancy in Libra’s back-left end. This was consistent with what we were seeing with the lungs and GI tract on the radiographs. Libra was swimming calmly and able to rest comfortably at the bottom of the tank, so we determined they were strong enough to stay in water overnight.
December 15, 2022: Within the first few days of treatment, Libra’s buoyancy issues resolved and they showed a great appetite! We are gradually increasing their diet and offering oral vitamins. We recently took follow-up radiographs of the lungs and ultrasound imaging of the GI tract and are seeing some improvement. Libra still has a long way to go in their recovery!
January 15, 2023: Libra is doing well and no longer showing any buoyancy issues. The lungs were improving at the time of the last radiograph, but we will perform another round of radiographs soon to confirm if the pneumonia is fully resolved. In the meantime, they are active in the tank, eating well and gaining weight just like we hoped!
February 15, 2023: This little Kemp’s was able to make a quick recovery in rehab! Based on bloodwork, a physical exam, and many other bench marks, it was decided that it was time for Libra to go home! They made the trek down to Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, Florida with eight of their turtle friends to be released in warmer waters! Wish them luck out in the big blue.