Sully | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 08


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Sullivan’s Island, SCArrival Date: June 27, 2016Age: juvenileWeight: ~60 lbs

Case History

06281602At about 1:15 pm, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) got in touch with Isle of Palms sea turtle stranding volunteers – a resident of Sullivan’s Island had spotted a turtle behind the rock wall at the harbor end of Sullivan’s Island. Barb Gobien, a volunteer for SCDNR and the Aquarium Sea Turtle Hospital,  rushed to the area to check it out. Barb was joined by members of Sullivan’s Island Fire and Rescue and Sullivan’s Island Public Works, and the crew brainstormed how to free the turtle. When the tide receded, the turtle remained trapped behind the rock wall. DNR law enforcement officer Angus McBride, arrived with a snare to capture the turtle and Willow Bender, Sea Turtle Biologist from the Aquarium arrived at the scene as well. It took an additional 45 minutes to finally capture the turtle. Once out of water, it was obvious that the turtle was sick – she was very thin and her shell was soft around the margins, indicating she had been getting sick for some time. The crew loaded the sick turtle into Barb Gobien’s van to transfer it to the Sea Turtle Hospital. Thanks to Barb Bergwerf and Barb Gobien for the rescue photographs.


Once at the South Carolina Aquarium, “Sully” was taken to the Animal Medical Facility for triage. It was evident that this loggerhead had a classic case of debilitated turtle syndrome! Emaciated, covered in barnacles, and minimally responsive, Sully had obviously not been eating for some time. Blood work revealed anemia, low blood proteins and a low blood glucose, all of which are to be expected with a debilitated turtle. Fluids, vitamins, and antibiotics were administered slowly through a drip line. After receiving these fluids, Sully was taken to the Sea Turtle Hospital in the basement where staff continue to monitor the turtle closely.


sullyAugust 1, 2016: This turtle continues to surprise staff and is exceeding expectations in regards to rebounding back. S/he came in so emaciated that staff has been hands-off as much as possible in order to give her time to put on muscle and weight. When a turtle is severely emaciated the shell becomes very soft making it potentially dangerous to move a turtle without the proper support. Sully, despite poor blood work, is eating great and slowly gaining weight. We are all very proud of the progress.September 13, 2016: Last week, Sully was upgraded to one of the large 1,000 gallon tanks. The increased tank size and depth seems to be suiting him/her well, as Sully has become much more active. This patient is slowly increasing in weight and both the carapace and plastron are starting to re-calcify. Although s/he still has many months of rehabilitation ahead, Sully continues to become a little stronger each day.September 30, 2016: Sully continues to do well and is slowly gaining weight. S/he is progressing nicely for a debilitated turtle but will need a few more months of supportive care before she’s ready for release.October 17,2016: This turtle is doing magnificently! S/he continues to gain weight and his/her shell is re-calcifying and becoming firmer. All of which are great signs that s/he is well on the way to a full recovery. We are hopeful that Sully will be ready for release in the spring!November 3, 2016: Sully continues to be a champion eater and appears to be improving daily.November 20, 2016: Sully continues to thrive and is making good progress! S/he was pulled for a weigh-in this week and continues to gain weight and improve. Sully is a very active patient who loves to eat a variety of fish, and especially loves blue crab!January 6, 2017: Sully has made excellent progress! We are excited to say that Sully received flipper tags this week and will be our next release candidate! Due to the cold ocean temperature off the coast of South Carolina, Sully will most likely be released further south where the water temperatures are warmer.January 18, 2017: Sully is almost ready for release! Sully’s blood work results showed that his/her vitamin D level was slightly lower than what is acceptable for release. We have taken extra measures to help increase his/her vitamin D levels. We will be re-evaluating the blood work next week!February 7, 2017: Great news, Sully’s blood work is looking phenomenal! We’ve tagged him for release, but we’re monitoring his behavior before making the final final decision. Way to go, Sully!March 6, 2017: Our staff observed some behavioral changes over the last month. When pulled for a routine physical exam, Dr. Boylan noticed opaqueness in the both eyes. Dr. Ann Cookb, of Animal Eye Care of the Lowcountry, examined Sully’s eyes and confirmed the presence of minor cataracts that will most likely not require surgical removal. Sully is back to normal and continues to eat well. We will be scheduling additional eye exams with Dr. Cook to make sure the cataracts do not progress.April 3, 2017: Last week, Sully received a physical and eye exam from Dr. Cook of Animal Eye Care of the Lowcountry. The cataracts have not progressed, but just to be sure we will continue to do monthly eye exams to monitor their potential progression. Sully weighs around 100 lbs and is a very active patient!

Release Date

May 10, 2017

Release Location

Isle of Palms County Park
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