Little Debbie | South Carolina Aquarium

Little Debbie

May 22

Little Debbie

Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: DeBordieu Beach, Georgetown, SC

Arrival Date: 05/22/2009

Age: juvenile

Weight: 18.4 kg (41 lb)

Case History

This is the largest Kemp’s ridley ever treated in our aquarium’s turtle hospital. S/he arrived very lethargic, dehydrated, and with a blood glucose (sugar) level over 300.


Initial treatment included fluid and vitamin therapy, as well as antibiotic injections. This turtle is too weak to be placed in water and will initially be kept on a wet foam pad. There is very limited movement during treatments. Pneumonia is suspected because mucus drains from the mouth.


1 June 2009: Radiographs taken last week confirmed pneumonia and a broken right front flipper. The flipper has been stabilized in a bandage and nebulized antibiotics are given daily. We are seeing a little more swimming activity from Little Debbie now that s/he is being kept in ~4″ of water. This is good news but this turtle is still very sick and we remain guarded about her prognosis.

18 June 2009: Little Debbie was radiographed a second time last Friday. The lungs do not look different on the X-rays, but our girl has definitely become more active. And the biggest news yet, she took some food on Tuesday! We hope to see this trend continue and, in the meantime, will continue to nebulize and medicate her with antibiotics and antifungals.

6 July 2009: Little Debbie is getting stronger, is eating like a champ, and bites at us when we nebulize her daily. We still have her in shallow water to minimize her use of the broken flipper. We look forward to that bone healing and being able to put her into a larger system!

20 July 2009: Good news – the pneumonia is officially gone and the broken right front flipper is on the mend. Little Debbie has been moved to a larger filtered tank at last! The not-so-good news is that Little Debbie has recently stopped using her left rear flipper and the joint is swollen. There is concern she is suffering from a bone infection called osteomyelitis, a syndrome Kemp’s ridleys are prone to when under stress from illness and injury. We know this is a treatable illness, but it will prolong her rehabilitation.

24 August 2009: The bone degeneration in the left knee is progressing as expected; radiographs revealed more lysis at the distal femur and proximal tibia. She is eating and behaving normally, and she uses the left hip joint normally although we may see lysis there in a 2-4 weeks. Like Wadmalaw, the bone appears to break down without apparent systemic effects. Antibiotics will be rotated and anti-inflammatories begun.

26 January 2010: Fantastic news: X-rays of Little Debbie’s left rear flipper show no further degradation of the joints! This means that the osteomyelitis infection is under control and Little Debbie’s condition is stable.

12 September 2010: Little Debbie continues to thrive, although it appears she’ll be overwintering in our hospital.

15 January 2011: Little Debbie is officially our longest resident at this point, as her stay in our hospital nears two years. However, we are now seeing calcification of the broken bone and are currently discussing release options for this turtle. She is officially medically cleared for release!

Release Date


Release Location

Beachwalker County Park, Kiawah, SC

Skip to content