Topaz | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 02
Kemp's ridley sea turtle, fishing line protrudes from mouth


Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: Edisto Island, South Carolina
Arrival Date: : 6/15/2021
Age: Juvenile
Weight: 3.3 kg (7 lbs)

Case History

Topaz was caught by a fisher off of Edisto Beach on Edisto Island. The fisher called South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to report that the turtle had swallowed a fishing hook. SCDNR permit holder, Kristi Summers, responded to the call, cut the line long, taped the remaining line to the carapace and waited with the turtle until SCDNR arrived. SCDNR technicians, Meredith Bean and Cami Duquet, then transported this little Kemp’s to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ for hook removal.


When Topaz arrived to the Aquarium, she was alert and responsive. After taking a body temp and heart rate, admitting staff immediately took an x-ray to determine the location of the hook. The hook appeared to be fairly deep down into the esophagus, which can be tricky to remove and often requires surgery. After blood was taken, the in-house results indicated that she was not stable enough to be sedated for a hook removal procedure that evening. Instead, staff administered fluids with vitamins to help with dehydration along with some meds to help her body correct her bloodwork values. After about an hour of monitoring, staff pulled blood again and some of the unstable values were beginning to resolve. Staff continued to monitor her closely and prepared for the hook removal procedure scheduled for the next morning. Topaz was then left to rest comfortably in a padded bin overnight.

UpdateVeterinarian removes hook from Kemp's ridley sea turtle

June 16, 2021: The following morning, we checked bloodwork and all of her in-house values had stabilized! Our vet team was then able to proceed with the hook removal. Topaz was sedated, and Dr. Shane wanted to see if he could remove the hook without surgery. Luckily for Topaz, Dr. Shane was able to successfully remove the hook! Throughout the procedure, staff closely monitored Topaz’s heart rate and respiration. Dr. Shane immediately gave her a drug to reverse the sedation and intubated her to help give her oxygen. Even under light sedation, sea turtles can take a while to start breathing on their own again without stimulation and need to intubated during the recovery process. Recovery took about an hour, but Topaz became more alert and started breathing on her own. Later that afternoon, she was recovered enough to safely transport her down to the basement ICU. She was placed in a tank with a floating kiddie pool, allowing her to rest comfortably for the remainder of the day.

July 15, 2021: A lot has changed for Topaz this month! Topaz recovered well from hook removal surgery and began eating quickly once we started offering food. After a week or two, we needed to place her, Opal and Onyx all in the same tank together since all our other tanks were full! She adapted well to the change and has finally finished her antibiotics. Now we will monitor her monthly on her weight gain and growth and look for any problems that may come to light while she is here.
August 15, 2021: Topaz is doing well in her newest tank arrangement. We have been monitoring her flippers for a possible bone infection called osteomyelitis. So far, the swelling in her joints has not gotten any worse and in some spots has improved. We are hopeful that this will be a nonissue on her journey to release.

September 15, 2021: Topaz is being pulled from her tank once a month to evaluate the flipper and carapace wounds. Topaz’s most recent check showed some improvement in the wounds, but we will continue to keep an eye on them monthly just in case. He is otherwise doing very well, and we are happy with his rehabilitation.

October 15, 2021: Topaz was recently evaluated for release and tagged by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Topaz passed the exam and was released off of Folly Beach and back into the Atlantic Ocean!

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