Orion | South Carolina Aquarium


Jan 11


Green (Chelonia mydas)

Stranding Location: Lands End, SC
Arrival Date: 12/26/22
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 7.35 kg (16.17 lbs)

Case History

This juvenile green sea turtle stranded in Land’s End, South Carolina in the early afternoon. The cause of stranding is cold stunning! This is a common cause of stranding in the winter months, especially with the cold snap that we had this weekend. Cindy Lockhart, SCDNR permit holder, transported this turtle, and two others, to the South Carolina Aquarium for treatment.


Upon admit, Orion’s temperature was 50 degrees. A normal internal body temperature for a sea turtle should be closer to 75 degrees; so, they were very cold! With cold stuns, their prognoses is extremely guarded due to all of the potential complications and secondary injuries. Orion’s heart rate was only 3 beats per minute and a healthy turtle is closer to 25–30 beats per minute. Due to their low heart rate, Orion was given Atropine to help stimulate their breathing and heart rate. They were also given fluids and vitamins. Based on their poor bloodwork and chilly body temperature, it was decided to leave them in a dry dock overnight instead of in water. A dry dock is a dry, padded bin that allows the turtle to rest comfortably without having to expend a lot of energy to breathe. This also gives the turtle the opportunity to warm up. It’s important to warm them up slowly, so that you do not cause shock to their system. Tomorrow when they are warmer, they will be started on antibiotics. When animals are too cold, they cannot process medicine appropriately.


December 28, 2022: This morning, Orion was quieter than they should have been in their dry dock. Staff checked their heart rate and it had slowed down to 6 beats per minute. Their internal body temperature was 68 degrees, so warmer than at admit, but not quite warm enough for water. Dr. Lauren and Sea Turtle Care Center™ staff decided to get a small blood sample to see what medications would be most helpful. After the results came back, it was decided that they needed more fluids, Atropine and calcium. About 20 minutes after they received all of those medications, their heart rate increased to 36 beats per minute!

A little later in the day, they had warmed up to 71 degrees so they were warm enough to go in a tank! Orion wasn’t doing so hot at first, as they were very floaty and swimming erratically. The tank level was lowered to allow them a shallower environment in which to acclimate. After the water level was lowered, they calmed down and were taking better breaths. By the end of the day, staff was not comfortable leaving them in the tank overnight due to significantly decreased energy levels. Orion is in a wet dock tonight, so that they can breathe more easily and rest more comfortably. Tomorrow we will reevaluate if they can be placed back in the tank or if they need more time.

January 15, 2023: Orion has graduated to a tank! They are currently in a divided tank with Andromeda in ICU, located in the basement. They are at about half a tank of water but will be getting gradual increases over the next few weeks. They haven’t shown much interest in eating but have taken a few bites here and there. To supplement their nutrition while they are not eating, we are giving them plenty of fluids. Send Orion all of your good healing vibes!

February 15, 2023: Orion has finally started to eat for us. Well… a little bit at least! They have been rather picky. We have tried offering a variety of fish many different ways, but they refuse to eat much of it. At least they have started eating lettuce for us! We are still trying to get them interested in fish. Wish us luck!

March 15, 2023: Over the last month, Orion’s appetite has picked up some. Although they still have not shown much interest in fish, we were able to gradually increase the veggie portion of their diet, and they are now eating a good percentage body weight of that. We have tried numerous different types of fish, squid and shrimp all to no avail, so we have ruled out that it is a preference for a certain type of seafood. Naturally as green sea turtles get older, they tend to switch to a more plant-based diet in the wild, eating sea grasses and other aquatic plants. As adults, green sea turtles are almost strictly herbivorous. It seems that our friend Orion may have just started that transition earlier than usual. Orion will mouth and occasionally mash the pieces of fish but ultimately leaves them. When we offer the veggies though, they eat them all immediately! So be sure to come visit our friend Orion who can be found in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ now, perhaps enjoying an all-you-can-eat salad bar!

April 15, 2023: Orion continues to be a slightly difficult eater but is doing well. Their calcium has been low; normally we try to supplement turtle’s calcium by hiding tablets in their fish pieces. However, Orion does not like fish, so we started them on calcium injections last month. But recently, we were able to take them off injectables because they have started eating calcium tablets — and the tablets aren’t even stuffed in fish! Orion continues to make progress but still has a little way to go before they are ready to return home.

May 15, 2023: As you may have read, Orion is not a big fan of their fish, so we have increased the amount of veggies that we are offering to compensate for the missing fish. This turtle gobbles their lettuce up so quickly! Orion seems to love the back-scratcher enrichment the most. You can see them up in Sea Turtle Recovery using it to scratch!

June 15, 2023: This past month was full of excitement for Orion! Orion was tagged and evaluated for release, and after healthy bloodwork results came back, they were cleared! We released Orion this past week at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, and we wish this little one the best of luck back out in the ocean!

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