Rafiki | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 01


Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Cherry Grove Fishing Pier, North Myrtle Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 6/23/2019
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 3.85 kgs (8.5 pounds)

Case History

On an early Sunday morning, Rafiki was caught on hook-and-line at the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier in North Myrtle Beach. Rafiki appeared to have swallowed the hook so the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) was contacted.  Rafiki was transported by SCDNR volunteers and S.C.U.T.E turtle team members to the South Carolina Aquarium to further treatment.


Upon admit, Rafiki was fairly active, and had about 8 inches of line coming from his mouth. Linda Mataya, SCDNR transporter, taped the long portion of the line to Rafiki’s shell to avoid snagging it during transport. X-rays were immediately taken, and it showed that the J hook was in the lower esophagus. Dr. Bryan did a PE and used an endoscope to visualize the hook. It appeared that the hook was too far down and would have to be removed surgically. Vet staff administered sedation and anesthesia, and the little Kemp’s was brought into the surgical suite to be prepped for hook removal. Using an endoscope, Dr. Bryan was able to visualize the hook, and made an incision at the base of the throat and into the esophagus. Dr. Bryan then inverted the esophagus until he was able to reach the hook and remove it. The hook was inside a large piece of squid and hooked into the wall of the esophagus. Once removed, Dr. Bryan sutured the incision site closed, and the sedation was reversed. Rafiki was a trooper and recovered from the effects of the anesthesia within a few hours of surgery. He received fluids, vitamins and was started on injectable antibiotics. Rafiki was monitored by staff the rest of the day and evening, and was placed on pain management drugs to keep him comfortable.


June 24, 2019: Rafiki was very quiet the day after admit but had a strong heart rate. More pain management drugs were administered along with fluids. Rafiki was kept in a waterbed for the rest of the day.

June 25, 2019: Rafiki was much brighter and more alert so we placed him in a shallow water tank. He was very active and continued to stay like that for most of the day. Rafiki will be fasted for a week or more to allow time for the incision in his esophagus to heal. Rafiki is also on antibiotics to prevent any infection.

July 16, 2019: Rafiki’s incision site is healing up well! There’s a nice thick layer of fibrin over the area. Rafiki is still on antibiotic injections, and we are increasing his diet slowly.

August 1, 2019: Rafiki is now smooth sailing! This zen little dude was moved up to a tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery recently. Check him out on your next visit to the Aquarium!

August 15, 2019: Rafiki received a weight check and physical exam by Dr. Shane this week! Rafiki’s incision site looks great, but there’s a tiny part that hasn’t fully closed up yet and needed to be flushed and treated with topical ointment. Rafiki is often observed zooming around the tank, so come check him out in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery!

Sept. 1, 2019: Rafiki has been doing great! We moved him into a divided tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery along with Sarafina and Shenzi to prep for Hurricane Dorian. Rafiki’s incision is still on the mend, but he is slowly but surely improving.

October 1, 2019: Rafiki received a pre-release evaluation this week! We conducted a physical exam, drew blood, weighed and measured her, and she received a P.I.T. tag. His incision site appears to be fully healed, and his body is in great condition! In the next few weeks, his bloodwork results should return, and if all looks well, he might return to the big blue soon!





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