Pluto | South Carolina Aquarium


Jun 02


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Pritchards Island
Arrival Date: 5/21/22
Age: Sub-adult
Weight: 29.23 kg (64.3 lbs)

Case History

Pluto washed up on the beach on Pritchards Island on Saturday morning. The turtle was found by the turtle team on their morning patrol. Pluto was then transferred to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) permit holders Keith Rossman, Cindy Lockhart and Lynne Sager. Upon admit, it was determined that Pluto is a mild debilitated turtle syndrome (DTS) case with some secondary injuries, likely from a predator attack.


When Pluto arrived at the Care Center, it was noted that their shell was rather soft. Extra precautions were taken to help protect Pluto from hard surfaces; they were placed on additional pieces of foam. On intake, we always take a blood sample to assess how the animal is doing internally. This also helps us determine what medications the animal may need outside of the normal fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. These blood values showed us that Pluto needed extra calcium injections, so those were added to their regimen. After they had been stabilized, we were able to clean all of the mud and sand off of their carapace. This revealed several predator injuries: a severe fracture and rake marks on Pluto’s shell (likely from teeth) and a puncture wound to the neck. The more obvious aliment was that Pluto has a missing right front flipper! However, it is completely healed over and does not appear to have caused Pluto’s stranding. We kept them in a bin with very shallow water and foam, so that they would be more comfortable and could rest with ease.


May 22, 2022: This morning Pluto’s heart rate sounded much stronger than the night before. They received fluids first thing and were moved to a tank with very shallow water. Once in the water, Pluto became more active and moved around the tank. With DTS patients, we do not want to offer a lot of food upfront because they normally have not eaten for a long time. Thus, if we offer a lot of food their body is unable to process it well. That being said, we offered Pluto a piece of smelt and they ate it right up. Their prognosis is guarded but hopefully things are looking up for Pluto, even though they aren’t a planet anymore.

June 15, 2022: Since Pluto’s admit, a lot has changed. Initially, they presented as fairly weak, so their water level increases were discontinued for a short while. They have now been promoted to a full tank of water! Pluto has shown us that they are feeling better by being extremely active and eating very well. They have even been started on vitamins. Sometimes the turtles do not like the taste of vitamins so they spit them out, but Pluto will eat them on their own. They have finished their antibiotic injections and were cleared to get enrichment! Pluto also got promoted to a new “room” in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™, so stop by and say “hi!”

July 15, 2022: Pluto has been doing great since our last update. They are eating very well, defecating often and are gaining weight! A radiograph was taken earlier this month to get a better idea of how their missing front flipper site had healed. Overall, it does not appear there are any issues with this site; it looks great! Pluto was cleared to get enrichment last month, and they interact with it often! Enrichment is changed out weekly to ensure they have a change to their environment. Last week, Pluto had a head tube in their tank. The head tube is intended to be used as a place for the turtles to hide their head in for a nap, but Pluto had other ideas. They preferred to use it by pushing it all around their tank!

August 15, 2022: Pluto is definitely a fan favorite up in Sea Turtle Recovery! During Pluto’s last weight check, staff noticed some small spots under the rake marks on the carapace where there was some lose keratin. Water was getting trapped underneath, which can be problematic. All of the loose keratin was removed and thoroughly cleaned underneath. Pluto will be pulled every two weeks for cleanings, rechecks and potentially some laser treatments.

September 15, 2022: Pluto is still as active as ever. They are showing great energy levels and are always eager to eat. Pluto was given some window gummies on their tank  for some enrichment, and they were very intrigued by it! Last month we mentioned that we were treating Pluto’s carapace; staff decided to use cold laser therapy in order to help in the healing process. They will be pulled every other week for treatments for the time being. If you have not seen Pluto in Sea Turtle Recovery, you should come and say hi!

October 15, 2022: Pluto has finished the last of their cold laser therapy treatments and shell checks! Overall, Pluto has been doing well and is showing good levels of activity. They will be with us through the winter as they continue to heal. They are as splashy as ever up in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™; you may even see them drench one of our biologists during a Turtle Talk!

November 15, 2022: Pluto continues to improve here in the Sea Turtle Care Center. They are eating well and defecating very frequently! If you look closely at the back, left-hand side of their carapace (shell) you can see where they were bitten by a shark. It has healed over very nicely, so look closely!

January 15, 2023: Pluto continues to eat well and gain weight which is exactly what we want for them! Hopefully in the next few months they can go home!

February 15, 2023: Pluto was pulled this past month for an exam and blood pull to see where their values are. Some of the blood values were a little lower than we would like to see. It is thought that they are a little lower due to having to put so much energy towards restoring their shell. We are supplementing with an increased amount of UV time to help increase vitamin D levels. Besides those few little things Pluto looks good! They were tagged this month in preparation for a possible release, but we are going to hold off for a few more months. If you are here during a Turtle Talk, you may see them splash one of our biologists!

March 15, 2023: Pluto has continued to improve over this past month! They still need some more time for their vitamin D levels to come up a bit. Pluto has their monthly weight and measurement scheduled for later this month, so hopefully they have continued to grow at a good rate!

April 15, 2023: You may have noticed that Pluto was missing from Sea Turtle Recovery for a few weeks. That’s because their tank needed some maintenance, so they were temporarily re-homed to an open tank in our ICU area. But no need to fret, Pluto continues to do well at the Care Center.

May 15, 2023: Pluto is back in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery! They have a healthy appetite and continue to make waves… literally. You may notice a colorful coat on Pluto’s carapace recently with reds, browns and greens; this to due algae growth! By increasing their UV time to elevate their vitamin D levels, algae naturally found in our tanks are also enjoying the UV time and photosynthesizing! Algal growth does not hurt Pluto and occurs naturally in the wild on loggerhead sea turtles. Pluto may be due for a shell scrub down soon!

June 7, 2023: Pluto is back in the wild! After a year in our care healing from debilitated turtle syndrome and predator wounds, Pluto was cleared by our vet staff to be fit and healthy enough for release! Pluto had a livestreamed beach release from Folly Beach County Park on June 6; check it out on our Instagram. We wish Pluto the best of luck!

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