Opal | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 02
Ill Kemp's ridley sea turtle on purple blanket


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Myrtle Beach State Park, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 6/18/2021
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 2.48 kg (5.5 lbs)

Case History

Opal was caught by a fisher on the Myrtle Beach State Park fishing pier late in the evening on June 17, 2021. The fisher called the park ranger to assess the situation, and they were able to remove a superficially located hook that was in the left corner of the turtle’s mouth/cheek. As they went to put the turtle back in the water, they noticed that some of the fishing leader was still in the turtle’s mouth. They realized there was another hook deeper in the throat, so they contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to come pick up the Kemp’s for transport. Since it was so late at night and the turtle was not in critical condition, they taped the line to the turtle’s shell and kept him in a foam padded bin until the next morning when Linda Mataya and Cami Duquet, volunteer and staff permit holders for SCDNR, could bring the patient to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center™ for evaluation.

TreatmentVeterinarian removes hook from Kemp's ridley sea turtle

When Opal arrived, Dr. Lauren did a physical exam and x-ray to assess the exact location of the hook. The hook was in the patient’s mouth but wasn’t too deep, which made for a much easier hook removal. Blood was drawn and the in-house results were unremarkable. However, the results did indicate dehydration. Fluids, vitamins and antibiotics were also administered. Overall, Opal was stable so the vet team began the hook removal procedure. Opal was sedated and Dr. Lauren was able to remove the hook in about 20 minutes. After Opal recovered from the sedation, she was placed in a shallow water tank and monitored closely. She was still a bit uncoordinated and disoriented from the sedation, so she was left to rest comfortably in a wet dock overnight.

July 15, 2021: Since her hook removal, Opal has been doing well! She has been eating all of the fish that we offer her and defecating normally. Since Opal came in to the Sea Turtle Care Center, she’s gotten two new roommates: Topaz and Onyx! These three Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were moved into a divided tank to make room for new admits since we were starting to run out of tanks. We have been collecting fecals on from her once a week and discovered that Opal had a parasite. Once we figured this out, we gave her an anti-parasitic to help alleviate this issue. Her fecals are pretty difficult to collect because they are small in size, but we will continue checking them to see if she requires further anti-parasitic treatments.

September 15, 2021: Opal has had an interesting month. Staff discovered that Opal had an abscess growing on her nose and has a small portion of exposed bone on one of her front flippers. The thought is that she had started rubbing those portions of her body on the dividers in her tank. The fix for this issue was pretty simple: move Opal to her own tank. This was done immediately and vet staff started her on cold laser therapy treatments. This month she started and finished those treatments, and she looks much better! Opal also decided to be a bit of a troublemaker and try to eat some of her enrichment. This enrichment has been removed and staff is back to the drawing board with her enrichment options!

October 15, 2021: Since munching on her seagrass enrichment last month, Opal has defecated all of the material that she had eaten! She was doing so well that our vet staff decided to evaluate her for release and good news: She passed! On October 14, Opal was released back to the big blue on Folly Beach!

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