Sagittarius | South Carolina Aquarium


Jan 04


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Cape Cod Bay, MA
Arrival Date: 11/27/22
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 3.0 kg (6 lbs)

Case History

This turtle is one of many that stranded up in the New England area due to cold stunning, the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia. New England Aquarium admits hundreds of turtles during the colder winter months; this year, we were able to take in 15 of these turtles to help lighten their load. We coordinate with New England Aquarium and a non-profit called Turtles Fly Too to transport the turtles here. Many thanks to pilot Steve Bernstein and his son Owen for flying them from New England down to Charleston!


Sagittarius was identified as a cold stun that needed to be triaged first due to their very low heart rate. While their body temperature was in the lower 70s, their heart rate was not where it should be, so the vet team administered some medications to help increase their heart rate. In-house bloodwork was relatively normal, but x-rays indicated the presence of pneumonia. Sagittarius also had a deep wound to the left front flipper which was treated with topical medications. They were already started on antibiotics at New England Aquarium. After a few hours of closely monitoring them, and once their body temperature acclimated to the room temp which was set a few degrees higher to increase their body temperature, they were cleared to be placed in a tank in the basement ICU. Initially, they were buoyant and had some issues diving, so their tank water level was lowered. They were able to dive down and rest comfortably at the bottom of their tank.


December 15, 2022: Over the past few weeks, Sagittarius has settled in well. They received a CT scan a few days after they were admitted to better access the pneumonia in their lungs. CT indicated a pretty nasty case of pneumonia so a second antibiotic was added to help cover all of the bases to both treat and prevent the infection from getting worse. Sagittarius has since started eating and is now in a full tank. We will be taking some follow-up imaging to make sure their pneumonia is improving in the coming weeks. The wound on their front flipper still has a lot of healing left to do, but it is on track. Sagittarius will continue to receive diet increases and antibiotic injections through the rest of the month.

January 15, 2023: Sagittarius has been improving since our last update! They have finished all of their antibiotics and are now swimming in a full tank of water! They are eating really well and are on a weighted diet. The wound on their right, front shoulder area is still covered in fibrin, and we are monitoring it to make sure it continues to heal.

February 15, 2023: Sagittarius is continuing to recover well from pneumonia, and the external wounds are healing great, too! We will monitor their progress as they continue to eat well and thrive during their rehab stay.

March 15, 2023: Sagittarius’s wounds have healed nicely, and they’ve progressed well enough in their rehab to move up to Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™. We will be pulling them soon for a physical, in addition to a monthly weight and measurement, to better assess their progress.

April 15, 2023: Surprise! Sagittarius was released this week in Florida at Little Talbot Island State Park. Water temperatures in South Carolina are still slightly chilly, so we took them and six other turtles down to warmer waters! Wish them good luck!

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