Green (Chelonia mydas)
Stranding Location: Myrtle Beach State Park
Arrival Date: April 27, 2016
Weight: 2.7 kg (6 pounds)
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) received a call Tuesday afternoon that a minimally responsive sea turtle had washed up on the beach in Myrtle Beach State Park. This juvenile green sea turtle was stranded far up on the shore in the swash channel. The swash channel is created by waves crashing on the beach, which occasionally forms gullies. Since this turtle was found in one of these pools, it was decided to name him/her Swash. Thanks to loyal SCDNR transporter Cami Blaylock, the turtle arrived at 9 pm on Tuesday night after successfully being transported two hours down to the aquarium.
With one quick glance at this turtle, it was very apparent that Swash was in need of medical attention. Upon admission, Swash was found to be dehydrated, emaciated, and had a substantial epibiota load including gooseneck barnacles and skeleton shrimp, as well as algae growing on his/her shell. It was clear from the turtle’s condition that s/he was floating at the surface of the water and not foraging for some time. Luckily, the Aquarium’s vet team and hospital staff were able to give this turtle life-saving supportive care including fluids, vitamins and antibiotics. Blood work revealed high sodium levels and low blood sugar which is consistent with an animal that is dehydrated and has not eaten in some time. Staff was extra careful while handling this animal due to its debilitated state and decalcified shell. After the appropriate amount of fluids were administered, Swash was placed on foam with a low water level to rest overnight. Interestingly, this case closely mirrors that of a previous patient back in May of 2015, Barnacle Bob. Barnacle Bob was a juvenile green that also arrived extremely emaciated and covered in barnacles.
29 April 2016: Swash is currently being housed in the Aquarium’s Animal Medical Facility where s/he is under the watchful eye of the veterinarian and vet assistant. Fluid therapy is being continued and radiographs and blood work were repeated today. When Swash was placed on the stretcher for x-rays, staff saw movement in the front flippers – this is the most movement we’ve seen from this lethargic turtle so far! Hopefully in the next day or so, we will be able to put Swash in a tank with low water for short periods of time to swim around. For now, it’s all about resting and re-hydrating.
5 May 2016: Swash has officially moved out of the medical facility and into a filtered tank in the Sea Turtle Hospital. Blood values are within normal limits so the antibiotics, vitamins and fluids seemed to have done the trick. Looking at this turtle today, you never would have guessed s/he was so weak just a few days ago. Swash is definitely enjoying the bigger tank and is either energetically swimming around or resting peacefully on the bottom. Staff is happy to see that s/he is exhibiting normal swimming behavior and buoyancy control. Hopefully, this young turtle will begin eating his/her diet of romaine lettuce and smelt so s/he can start slowly regaining weight.
25 May 2016: Swash has been doing exceptionally well! A majority of the barnacles have fallen off, revealing a beautiful shell. Now that Swash is strong enough, and not weighed down with the extra weight of the epibiota, s/he is in a full tank of water which gives her ample space to swim around.
18 June 2018: Swash looks like a brand new turtle. All of the barnacles have fallen off, allowing the underlying keratin to start healing and regrow. We have been taking advantage of the great weather here in Charleston by taking our greens outside for some much need sunshine and Vitamin D! Who doesn’t want to go to a sea turtle pool party with Swash, Grace and Forest!
July 29, 2016
Isle of Palms County Park