Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Hilton Head, SC
Arrival Date: 5/28/2021
Weight: 73.3 kg (161 lbs)
Ruby was found stranded on the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Rescuers called the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to report the turtle as she appeared to be alert but lethargic and was covered in barnacles. Amber Kuehn, an SCDNR permit holder and transporter, responded to the call and met an SCDNR technician halfway between Charleston and Hilton Head. Meredith Bean, SCDNR technician, brought Ruby to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center™ around 8 p.m. on Friday evening.
Ruby was not as lethargic as we expected since we were classifying her as a DTS (Debilitated Turtle Syndrome). This is a common problem we see where the turtle is just generally very sick. They are extremely skinny, covered in epibiota and have terrible bloodwork. Ruby was not quite a true DTS case, but she easily could’ve become one had she not washed ashore when she did. Her bloodwork was relatively stable, she was just dehydrated and had a low blood sugar level but was not anemic. We administered fluids and vitamins to help rehydrate her and started her on antibiotics. She calmed down after a few minutes in the medical exam room and was generally an easy case to admit. She is missing her left rear flipper, but it is a fully healed wound, so it happened a long time ago. We can’t be sure what trauma caused the injury. Ruby was placed in shallow water overnight to rehydrate and rest.
June 7, 2021: Ruby’s energy level increased the next day, and she showed immediate interest in food. We started by offering only a few pieces of fish a day because the CT scan had revealed a large amount of shell material in her GI tract. Over the first week, she began to pass huge quantities of small shells and bivalves daily, some piles weighing over a pound each! She then began defecating numerous pieces of horseshoe crab shell and gills. You can imagine how much better she feels getting all of that out of her gut! Her activity level has improved, and she is very hungry. We’ve begun gradually increasing her diet and tank water level.
June 15, 2021: Since her admit, Ruby has continued to improve drastically. She is a fantastic eater and has proven to us that she does not discriminate against any species of fish — she eats them all! It is important for our patients to eat a varied diet of fish species whenever possible so they can get a variety of nutrients. Ruby is also strong enough now to handle a full tank of water. She hit this milestone this past weekend, and we are very proud of her!
July 15, 2021: This past month, Ruby was moved from the basement ICU to Tank 7 in the first-floor hospital! We gave her some new enrichment and she absolutely loves to scratch her back and plastron on it all day. Come check her out during your next visit to the Aquarium!
August 15, 2021: Ruby has continued to improve over the past month. She steals the hearts of guests every single day! We have to limit her exposure to her backscratcher since she likes to go at it so much. We don’t want her doing any damage to her shell or getting stuck in it, so she only gets access to it with supervision.
September 9, 2021: We are happy to report that all of Ruby’s bloodwork came back within normal limits, and she was released back into the wild!