Olaf | South Carolina Aquarium


Dec 14


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Arrival Date: 11/29/2021
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 2.9 kg (6.83 lbs)

Case History

Olaf stranded on November 25 in Cape Cod in Wellfleet, Massachusetts due to cold stunning. They were transported to the New England Aquarium they received fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. After a few days at the New England Aquarium, Turtles Fly Too pilot, Ed Filangeri, and co-pilot, Glenn Knoblach, picked up over 40 sea turtles and flew them to rehabilitation facilities in North Carolina, Georgia and to us at the South Carolina Aquarium. It truly takes a village to rehabilitate sea turtles!


Olaf was one of eight sea turtles transported from New England Aquarium for further treatment of cold-stunning. Once loaded onto our transport van, we immediately checked both their body temp and heart rate and noticed that of all the new patients, Olaf was the quietest and had the lowest heart rate. We kept a close eye on them during the transport, and they were the first one we triaged. During admit, Olaf’s heart rate dropped to a very low rate of 2 bpm (beats per minute), and we noticed that they were not taking great breaths. We pulled blood and then decided to intubate and start breathing for them using an ambu-bag. Bloodwork results indicated that this patient had respiratory acidosis, meaning they were not breathing enough and there was a build up of carbon dioxide in their body. We administered some drugs to help counteract this, along with antibiotics and fluids and vitamins for rehydration. We continued to breathe for them over the course of the next few hours. We checked bloodwork again and the results showed that the respiratory acidosis was improving, but Olaf was still not breathing on their own. We set up the ventilator to breath for them throughout the night, and we checked them periodically to make sure everything was going smoothly. Olaf also has an older, small boat-strike injury to their carapace (top shell). After a long night on the ventilator, we reevaluated blood, and luckily the respiratory acidosis had resolved and their heart rate was back to normal. We decided to extubate and encourage the patient to breath on their own, and within a few minutes, with stimulation, they began to breathe on their own. After an hour, we tried them in a bin with shallow water, and they began to swim and breathe more regularly. After careful observation and monitoring, Olaf was moved to a shallow water tank in our basement ICU later that day.


December 12, 2021: Olaf has been doing much better since admit! Olaf’s boat-strike injury was debrided of any dead tissue and debris — they’re also on a second antibiotic to treat pneumonia. Though it took a few days, Olaf finally began eating! Olaf will continue to receive antibiotic injections and diet increases over the next few weeks.

January 15, 2022: Since admit, Olaf has been doing well overall. It took Olaf a few days to start eating on their own, but we have not had issues with that since the first week of their admit. Olaf was admitted with a relatively new boat strike to the top of their carapace. Though it was not a fresh wound and had healed up some, it is still in a tricky location on the top of the shell, so we knew we would have to monitor it closely as it continued to heal. Last week, Dr. Lauren preformed another CT scan to see how the fractures were healing and also did a debridement of the wound. Debridement is the removal of any dead tissue, bone or debris that will no longer aid in the healing process. Olaf will likely need to receive a few more debridement procedures as the fractures heal, but overall they are looking good.

February 15, 2022: Everyone’s favorite snowman… we mean turtle… is healing well! The old carapace fracture continues to look better and better at each exam. Staff is continuing with exams and debridement as needed.

March 15, 2022: Olaf’s carapace continues to heal very well! As far as food goes, Olaf is not the biggest fan of moon jellies, but we did try to offer some fiddler crabs — they gobbled them up!

April 15, 2022: Olaf has been moved up in to Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ in a tank all to themselves! Olaf’s boat strike injury has healed up so well it’s hard to believe they were even injured! We are giving Olaf’s bloodwork time improve before they will be considered for a release candidate. Come check out Olaf next time you visit the Aquarium!

May 15, 2022: Olaf has been doing really well in their tank in Recovery! So well in fact, that we decided it was time to evaluate them for release. Earlier this week they were pulled for an exam, bloodwork and tagging. We are waiting on bloodwork results to determine if they are ready!

May 25, 2022: Olaf was released at Folly Beach County Park today! They swam away quickly without looking back. Olaf, we wish you all the best!

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