Poptart | South Carolina Aquarium


Apr 22


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Folly Beach Fishing Pier, Folly Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 4/13/24
Age: Juvenile
Sex: Unknown
Weight: 2.65 kg (5.84 lbs)

Case History

Poptart is a juvenile Kemp’s ridley that was accidently caught by hook and line at the Folly Beach Fishing Pier. The angler reported the turtle to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and a SCDNR volunteer was able to respond quickly to transport Poptart to the Aquarium for treatment.

If you ever accidentally catch a sea turtle, leaving the fishing line attached doesn’t seem like something that you should do, however it’s actually really helpful for our veterinarians! We recommend leaving about a foot of line and taping it to the back of the turtle’s shell. This provides us with a pathway directly to the hook for hopefully an easy removal!


Upon arrival, Poptart came in feisty with good energy. The turtle was in good body condition with a healthy weight, but had a couple of superficial abrasions on the carapace (top shell). Vet staff took radiographs to check the status of the hook and evaluate removal possibilities. The partial hook was confirmed to be in the esophagus, but was just too far out of reach to be removed orally. We considered its position and were hopeful that the hook may be able to be passed by the patient without surgical intervention. Poptart was given fluids to rehydrate, and the superficial wounds were cleaned up with a topical antiseptic solution. We’ll take a series of radiographs over the next few days to watch the movement of the hook and consider our next steps.

Following the initial intake and triage, Poptart was approved for a swim test in a full tank of water. S/he did swimmingly! The little turtle made quite the splash when introduced, and was actively swimming at the surface with quick breaths while learning to navigate the tank walls. Eventually, Poptart slowed down and became more explorative of the surroundings with less frequent but more full breaths at the surface. By the end of the day, Poptart had adjusted well to her/his new temporary home!


April 17, 2024: In general, we are seeing great energy levels from Poptart and no indicators that this animal is uncomfortable. Radiographs have been taken every day since this little turtle’s arrival and unfortunately the hook has not moved. This means we will move to a surgical removal!

May 15, 2024: This past month Poptart had hook removal surgery! Thankfully, everything went smoothly and the fish hook was successfully removed from Poptart’s esophagus. Poptart recovered well and has started eating for us. You can meet this little Kemp’s ridley in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™! If you look closely, you can still see the sutures from the surgery. These sutures will be in place for the next three to four weeks before they are removed. It’s always so neat to witness how well these turtles can heal!

June 1, 2024: Poptart has been making some big moves recently! The sutures were removed a couple weeks ago and s/he has been recently tagged for potential release! This little turtle has also been moved into what we’re jokingly referring to as the “Kemp’s Condo”. This tank is divided and Poptart will have her/his own section while sharing the tank with two other Kemp’s ridley’s. S/he seems to have adjusted to the new company very well. Poptart has just a little more weight to gain before official release clearance, but is on a positive trajectory!

June 11, 2024: We are happy to report that after recent diet increases, Poptart gained enough weight and was released in a local protected saltmarsh wildlife habitat today! Help us wish Poptart a long and healthy life back in the wild!

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