The South Carolina Aquarium saved the life of Price, a severely debilitated loggerhead that stranded in early May, but with a diagnosis of severe bilateral cataracts, it would take someone else to save his/her future. The blind turtle would not have a chance of surviving in the wild without greater intervention, and that came on Monday, September 28 when Dr. Anne Cook and her staff at Animal Eye Care of the Lowcountry performed cataract surgery on the 120-pound loggerhead. After five months of blindness and just 36 hours after surgery to remove the opaque lenses, Price was able to find food on his/her own!
The primary difference in this and human cataract surgery is that loggerheads are not given artificial replacement lenses, as none exist for sea turtles. In addition, we cannot release animals back into the wild with artificial components, and release is our ultimate goal. As the lens of the eye is primarily responsible for depth perception, hospital staff and volunteers were extremely excited about how quickly Price found the food placed in her tank today (as evidenced by the video).
To help the eyes heal from surgery, staff is pulling Price from his/her tank daily to administer eye drops that will help reduce inflammation and keep infections away. With four cataract surgeries on sea turtles under our belt already, Sea Turtle Hospital staff are confident that Price will heal quickly and be one step closer to being releasable. Unfortunately, loggerheads stranding with cataracts have become more common in SC and there are three additional patients in the Sea Turtle Hospital that will need the same surgery.
We are forever grateful for veterinary ophthalmologist extraordinaire, Dr. Cook who generously provides her time, staff and expertise to save the future for these patients!