Sunny Side | South Carolina Aquarium

Sunny Side

Jul 03

Sunny Side

Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Surfside Beach Fishing Pier, SC
Arrival Date: 6/23/24
Age: Juvenile
Sex: Unknown
Weight: 2.73 kg (6.02 lbs)

Case History

This juvenile Kemp’s ridley was accidentally hooked by an angler on the Surfside Beach Fishing Pier on a sunny Sunday morning. The little turtle bit off more than s/he could chew and a large hook ended up embedded in her/his mouth. A volunteer from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) responded and transported this sea turtle to the Aquarium, ensuring the turtle was shaded from the summer heat and as calm as possible.


Sunny Side came in calm and alert. When triaging patients hooked by fishermen, we always try to do radiographs first to see the positioning of the hook, if there are more than one and if there are any other internal factors — such as foreign objects, broken bones or impactions. Luckily for Sunny Side, there was just one hook embedded in the mouth within reach to remove without surgery. Vet staff drew blood next to evaluate the patient’s internal health and the results were within normal limits for a healthy turtle. When we performed a physical exam, we noticed that Sunny Side had a few small abrasions on her/his flippers and carapace, but was in relatively good body condition. Based on these initial triage results, our veterinary team made the decision to move forward with hook removal.

When examining the mouth, the hook was embedded in the tongue deeply. To keep the turtle calm and to lessen the pain, s/he was lightly sedated. Once Sunny Side was fully relaxed, our veterinarian removed the double barbed circle hook as quickly and cleanly as possible. Following the hook removal, the wound on the tongue was coated with lidocaine gel. This gel numbed Sunny Side’s tongue so s/he would remain comfortable after waking up from sedation. Sunny Side’s sedation was reversed and s/he was alert and moving around within 15 minutes! We administered fluids, vitamins and antibiotics to jump start the healing process. Due to the turtle’s alert behavior and good body condition, we moved Sunny Side to a shallow tank of water following the hook removal.

Sunny Side took to her/his new environment right away! S/he looked great swimming with full range of motion, was taking deep breaths and explored these new surroundings. Within the hour, this little Kemp’s defecated, which is always great to see! Sunny Side was resting at the bottom of the tank by late afternoon. We are hopeful that Sunny Side will have a quick recovery with us!


June 26, 2024: Sunny Side has settled in well! S/he is calmly exploring the tank and having daily defecations consisting of digested crab parts. Sunny Side hasn’t shown interest in food yet, but that is to be expected as s/he is likely experiencing some soreness in the mouth from the hook removal. To supplement, s/he will be given fluids to stay hydrated as we continue to offer different fish food items for Sunny Side to try.

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