Tonks | South Carolina Aquarium


Mar 12


Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Charleston Harbor Shipping Channel, SC

Arrival Date: 03/06/2018

Age: Juvenile

Weight: 2.2 kg (4.84 pounds)

Case History

This endangered juvenile Kemp’s ridley was found floating after going through a hopper dredge that is currently operating in the Charleston Harbor Shipping Channel. Luckily, the Army Corps of Engineers spotted her and contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and arranged to drop this young turtle off via boat to Fort Johnson. Thanks to SCDNR employee Kacie Ferguson, Tonks quickly made it to the Aquarium.


Tonks was met after business hours by Dr. Shane Boylan and STCC staff who quickly got to work triaging this injured turtle.Tonks was immediately CT scanned in fear that her lungs could have been damaged by the dredge. Thankfully, her lungs looked to be in good condition. Tonks had several abrasions and contusions from being hit with sand and debris while going through the dredge. Her plastron, carapace, flippers, face and eyes all suffered injuries. Blood was taken and evaluated, then vitamins and antibiotics administered. She kept her eyes closed for most of the triage because of her injuries, but when she did open them Dr. Boylan noticed she had hyphema, blood in the iris or cornea, in the left eye. After the initial triage was completed, Tonks was placed in a tub with foam and saltwater to rest comfortably overnight.


March 10, 2018: Since admit, Tonks has been doing much better. The day after admission, Dr. Boylan was taking a closer look at Tonks’ CT scans and noticed some gas emboli present in the kidneys, indicating that she had decompression sickness (DCS). Decompression sickness, also referred to as the bends, happens when an animal ascends too quickly for their bodies to adapt to the pressure change. Since Tonks went through a dredge she could have been pulled up 50 feet in a matter of seconds. Dr. Boylan rushed to make a pressurized oxygen chamber to assist Tonks in getting rid of some of those gas pockets. After just a few hours of being in the chamber he saw a significant reduction the gas emboli! She is now in a tank with low water down in the basement and appears to be feeling much better.

March 15, 2018: Good news for this little fella! Tonks ate immediately when we offered smelt this week, and he has been defecating. Both are very important milestones for newly admitted patients. Tonks is on antibiotics and her bruising and abrasions on her plastron, chin and flippers are healing, and the hypema in her left eye has also resolved as well.

April 1, 2018: Tonks continues to do well and is almost finished with her course of antibiotics! Her wounds are healing up nicely, and she is still getting regular diet increases. We are so pleased to see her doing well!

April 15, 2018: Tonks is enjoying his new digs up in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. Come say “hello” to this adorable little patient!

May 15, 2018: Tonks is doing wonderfully! She received a blood pull and radiographs earlier this month to make sure everything is looking good. Tonks has gained a little bit of weight and has been a guest favorite due to his adorably small size.

June 1, 2018: Tonks is continuing to do great! She loves to zip around her tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. Her monthly blood checks have been going great, and everything is looking good for her! She loves to eat her food right out of the water column before it even hits the bottom of the tank. She’s definitely won the hearts of everyone that gets the opportunity to see her. Make sure to come see Tonks while she’s in our care!

June 15, 2018: Tonks loves swim through her teepee enrichment in her tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. Tonks will be here for a little while longer to make sure her blood values normalize.

July 1, 2018: Tonks has been passing all of her monthly tests and has been doing great! Not too much is known about decompression sickness in sea turtles. As a result, Tonks will be in our care for a little while longer. We want to be certain she is completely healed before returning her home. Did you know, a sea turtle sleeps under the water and can hold its breath for 4-7 hours?

July 15, 2018: Staff is hopeful that over the next couple of weeks Tonks will be one swim closer to release. She has been passing all of her exams with flying color, and behaviorally and health wise she’s looking great! We’re currently evaluating her for tagging, which is every patient’s first step in their release journey. Come see Tonks before she leaves us!

August 1, 2018: Tonks has moved tanks! She’s now living in our biggest tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. This tank is 5 feet deep and gives her plenty of room to swim around. Since Tonks suffered from decompression sickness, we want to make sure she is still able to dive normally. This tank gives her the opportunity to practice her diving and become stronger before being released.

August 15, 2018: Tonks is continuing to gain weight and loves staying active in her tank. She is going to be tagged for release tomorrow! This is Tonks’ first step toward going home! She still has a little more time with us, so be sure to come see her in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery Center!

September 1, 2018: Tonks was tagged for release! She received a small PIT tag which was placed in her shoulder muscle. A PIT tag is a microchip tag, which is similar to what cats and dogs get. This tag doesn’t allow us to track Tonks, but if she is ever found after we release her then the microchip number can be used to identify her. During the tagging process, we take blood and do an overall physical exam. Thankfully, her blood results came back great, and she’s ready to go back home. Bon voyage, Tonks!

Release Date

September 6, 2018

Release Location

Isle of Palms County Park
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