Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Stono Inlet, Charleston, SC
Arrival Date: 5/25/2021
Weight: 65.50 kg (144 lbs)
Moonstone was found off of Stono Inlet near Charleston by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) on the R/V Lady Lisa. Moonstone was pulled on board with a stingray barb though her right rear flipper. SCDNR biologists, Chris Evans and Mike Arendt, assessed the injury from the barb and knew that it would need it to be removed. Mike Arendt transported Moonstone to the Aquarium by boat, where Sea Turtle Care Center™ staff admitted her for stingray barb removal.
Moonstone was very active and alert at admit and was carefully placed on a scale to get a weight. Once a weight was taken, we sedated her to better assess the barb and determine how to best proceed with removing it. We took a quick CT scan to visualize the positioning of the barb in the right, rear flipper. The venom in stingray barbs can cause bleeding and a significant amount of tissue damage, so they need to be removed as quickly as possible. Once off the CT table, Moonstone was moved to the exam room for the removal. The stingray barb was easily removed and a pressure bandage of sorts was used to help slow, and eventually stop, the bleeding. While Moonstone was under sedation, we administered fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. Moonstone started to become more active on the table and, after the fluids were finished, she was moved into a shallow water tank downstairs in our basement ICU. Moonstone was monitored closely and left to rest comfortably overnight.
June 3, 2021: Over the past few days, staff noticed that Moonstone had become quieter and less active than she was the first few days after admit. Moonstone had not started eating yet, which is normal for new patients when they first arrive. Moonstone was given fluids and vitamins throughout the week, but she still was not as energetic as we hoped. We decided to bring her to our exam room so that our vet team could do another full exam and take full body x-rays to make sure we did not miss a barb on CT or on physical exam. Just as we had suspected, there was a second stingray barb that was embedded in the soft tissue under her right front flipper. It was very hard to detect on x-ray and the entry wound was barley visible unless you knew where to look for it using x-rays; there was also no bleeding at the site on admit. Moonstone was then sedated and a small incision was made to remove the barb surgically. She received pain management drugs, fluids and was put on a secondary antibiotic to aid in the healing process. She has some sutures in the incision site and will continue to receive fluids on her injection days until she begins eating. Fingers crossed that Moonstone will start to feel better and begin to eat soon.
June 15, 2021: Moonstone’s surgical sites where the two barbs were removed are continuing to heal, and we are keeping an eye out for necrotic tissue caused by the venom. She is much more alert and active since the last surgery and is using both of the flippers normally. Toward the end of last week, Moonstone finally showed interest in food. Since then, her appetite has picked up, and she is now eating all of the fish off the bottom of her tank. These are all huge milestones in her recovery process!
July 15, 2021: Moonstone has had two new additions to her tank since last month: a head tube and a backscratcher! These two pieces of enrichment give her an opportunity to explore something new in her tank. The backscratcher was not a hit, but you can find her taking naps in her head tube multiple times throughout the day. She likes it so much that she doesn’t even eat her food until we remove the head tube. This month she has also been promoted from her tank in the basement ICU to a tank in the first-floor hospital!
August 15, 2021: Moonstone is settling in nicely in her new tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. If you notice that the windows next to the tank look dirty, it’s because Moonstone is pretty splashy (typically right after we clean the tanks 😊). She’s eating her food well and is defecating a lot!
September 15, 2021: Moonstone has been doing well this past month. She has adjusted to her tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery well. Since the adjustment period went smoothly, Care Center staff reintroduced a couple of enrichment pieces: a head tube and a back scratcher. Previously, Moonstone did not like the backscratcher, but this month she is tolerating it. Staff is still monitoring her stingray barb injury sites. They are looking good, but she still has some healing to do.
October 15, 2021: Over this past month, staff noticed that there was some swelling in the right rear flipper where the stingray barb was removed from. It had swollen to the point where it was rubbing on the edge of her carapace when pulling her flipper in. Moonstone was pulled for a physical exam and radiograph to check on the wound. Veterinary staff decided that the wound was actually healing pretty nicely despite how it looked. There is some slight bone loss on the fibula where the barb penetrated the flipper. However, at this time we are not overly concerned about the swelling and bone loss. We will continue to monitor her injuries and give her the time she needs to fully recover.
November 15, 2021: Moonstone has developed a vitamin aversion and has been incredibly difficult to offer vitamins to. We have tried lots of different techniques to offer the vitamins, but if they detect them in their diet at all they stop eating completely. While Moonstone is in great body condition, we do need to make sure their nutritional needs are met while they are in rehab. We have started offering them in the last few pieces of their diet and that has helped a little. Other than that, we are just giving her time for the stingray barb injury to heal and will do another physical exam and weight check next month.
January 15, 2022: This past month, Moonstone had a physical exam by our vet team that included an updated weight, measurement and radiographs! There is some swelling over the right knee where the stingray barb was previously located. On radiographs, it shows that there is a small amount of bone loss but the area is calcifying well! Moonstone will be with us for a few more months while this area continues to heal. During the rest of their time in rehab, we will continue with monthly exams and radiographs to ensure that the injury site continues to heal!
February 15, 2022: Moonstone is making a splashing recovery from their stingray barb injuries! The wounds have healed nicely, and staff is giving Moonstone a little more time to recover before evaluating them for release. Until then, staff will continue to monitor them closely.
March 15, 2022: Moonstone continues to do well in the Sea Turtle Care Center and is enjoying their favorite fish: salmon! Next week they will be pulled for their monthly weight, measurement and physical exam. Here’s to hoping everything still looks great!
April 15, 2022: Moonstone is due for a weight and measurement this week. At this time, our vet staff will take a close look at their rear flipper injury to ensure that it is continuing to heal properly. Here’s to hoping this splashy turtle is a little closer to getting released!
May 15, 2022: Good thing we held off on cleaning the windows until after we pulled Moonstone for their pre-release exam, because they splashed more than ever before! You can now see Moonstone rocking two new flipper tags because they were tagged as well. We are holding off on determining if they are ready for release until we get the bloodwork results back.
May 25, 2022: Great news: Moonstone was released! Today actually marks one year in rehab for Moonstone. Happy one-year anniversary Moonstone; your gift is going home!