Sumter | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 13


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Found in-water in Charleston Harbor near Fort Sumter

Arrival Date: June 30, 2016

Age: sub-adult

Weight: ~141 lbs

Case HistoryDSC_9342

This loggerhead was brought on board the RV Lady Lisa by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) during their annual trawl research to capture and assess sea turtle populations. SCDNR staff immediately recognized that the turtle looked underweight and had a heavier load of small barnacles than that of a healthy loggerhead. Onboard blood analysis confirmed their fears: the turtle was debilitated and would require treatment at the Sea Turtle Hospital.


“Sumter” (named after the Fort Sumter National Monument located in the Charleston Harbor) is one lucky loggerhead! Found in-water, it was only a matter of time before this turtle stranded, after which “her” chances of survival would be considerably less. Once she was transported to our Animal Medical Facility, staff began administering the routine treatment for a debilitated loggerhead. She was weak and covered in barnacles indicating that she had not been very active and was not eating. Blood revealed anemia and low blood glucose, both of which are to be expected with a debilitated turtle. After fluids, vitamins, and antibiotics were administered, staff took Sumter into the basement Sea Turtle Hospital to begin recovery.


July 12, 2016: Sumter has been very quiet in her first two weeks with us. Fortunately, she started eating within a few days of her arrival. In an effort to help her conserve energy, she was kept in only 8-12” of water for the first week which alleviated the need to swim to the surface for a breath. On July 4th, day 5 of her hospital stay, her water level was raised a bit to allow her to move around a little better and it was noted that her eyes appeared to be cloudy. The vet was called to examine the eyes and he confirmed that Sumter has contracted bilateral cataracts. This is extremely perplexing as we are not sure what is causing the cataracts that are afflicting so many loggerheads in our area.

August 17, 2016: Sumter is recovering well from DTS and continues to eat well and gain weight! Sumter’s bilateral cataracts are being closely monitored by our team.

September 13, 2016: Despite having bilateral cataracts, Sumter is still able to locate food. She will be undergoing cataract surgery in the next couple of months.

September 30, 2016: In early October, Sumter is undergoing phacoemulsification surgery (cataract surgery) to remove bilateral cataracts. Through careful observation, we know Sumter has trouble locating food because of the cataracts, and occasionally needs her food to be fed to her on tongs.

October 17, 2016: Sumter underwent cataract surgery to remove the mineralization and the lens on both of her eyes. We are happy to report that the surgery went very smoothly. Sumter is our 8th patient to have this surgery and we are expecting her to make a full recovery. She is currently having a little difficulty locating her food as it takes time to adjust to vision without lens.

November 3, 2016: Sumter is still adjusting to feeding after the cataract removal surgery she had earlier this month. She is relearning how to locate food and is making good progress. We are confident that, with time, Sumter will make a full recovery and be released back into her ocean home!

November 20, 2016: Sumter has recovered wonderfully from the cataract surgery she received in October. Sumter is locating and foraging for her food better and better with each day! In a few weeks, we will pull Sumter out for a quick exam and weigh-in.

December 15, 2016: Sumter continues to make progress in her ability to track food! Our sea turtle care staff is so happy to see her eat off of the surface and throughout the entire water column!

January 6, 2017: Sumter has developed a bone infection called osteomyelitis in the elbow joint of the right front flipper. Due to increased swelling, she has started to favor that flipper. Sumter will receive a follow-up exam by our aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Boylan, to decide further treatment options.

January 18, 2017: Along with a decreased appetite, the swelling in Sumter’s right front flipper worsened due to osteomyelitis (bone infection). Sumter is now on a course of antibiotics and is receiving cold laser therapy biweekly. Cold laser therapy is a therapeutic laser that helps reduce inflammation, and stimulates blood flow to the affected area which promotes overall healing. We have seen some good results with this treatment, as Sumter is now eating her diet more consistently and now has minimal use of the right front flipper.

February 7, 2017: Sumter has completed a round of antibiotics to fight the osteomyelitis in his/her right front flipper. We will continue to do cold laser therapy to stimulate blood flow and promote healing. Sumter’s appetite has increased since beginning this therapy treatment. He/she is now uses the flipper minimally. Dr. Boylan will continue to monitor her changes and do follow-up physical exams and radiographs.

March 6, 2017: Sumter’s swelling in the right front flipper has greatly reduced with the help of the cold laser therapy! We are continuing to do this treatment biweekly and are seeing an overall improvement in Sumter’s ability to use the flipper. We will continue to monitor the progression of Sumter’s osteomyelitis with radiographs and observation. Sumter’s appetite has also improved and she is now finishing her entire meal almost every day!

April 3, 2017: Sumter’s use of his/her right front flipper has improved tremendously and we have discontinued cold laser therapy. Sumter will receive monthly radiographs to monitor the osteomyelitis (bone infection) in that flipper. Despite many attempts to provide this turtle with a varied diet of fish types, Sumter continues to only have a taste for salmon. Sumter now weights around 150 lbs!

May 3, 2017: Sumter continues to improve and is putting on more weight. Sea Turtle Care Center™ staff and volunteers are observing an increased use of the right front flipper. It appears that the bone infection is not progressing but it will still be monitored for any changes via monthly radiographs.

May 19, 2017: Sumter is getting close to embarking on the final leg of her journey back home. She was tagged for release this past Tuesday, received a physical exam, repeat radiographs and blood was pulled for evaluation. Once all the results come back we will be assessing her for release! Stay tuned to see if she gains medical clearance.

Release Date

May 31, 2017

Release Location

Folly Beach County Park

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