Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Beaufort, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 8/5/2021
Weight: 1.9 kg (4.18 lbs)
Turquoise was hooked late at night on August 4 by a fisher on the Marine Corps Air Station Base in Beaufort, South Carolina. The fisher cut the line near the mouth of the turtle and called authorities to report the incident. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) sent a volunteer permit holder to retrieve the animal and assess its injuries. Since it was late at night and the animal was doing well overall, the permit holder kept the animal overnight until they could transport it to the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center™. The following morning, Turquoise arrived midday for hook removal.
Turquoise was a teeny tiny turtle! He was in good body condition, but we could not see the hook or the fishing line which meant the turtle probably swallowed the hook. We took an x-ray and sure enough, there was a very large wide-gap hook almost in the stomach. We wanted to do surgery right away but due to some poor bloodwork we analyzed, we opted to wait one more day to make sure he was totally stable before we sedated and anesthetized him. On August 6, we did surgery to remove the hook from his throat. We went in through the underside of his neck, then into the esophagus. Rolling the esophagus like a sock, we followed the fishing line down to the hook’s eye. The rest of the surgery was incredibly difficult. Dr Shane had to try to remove the incredibly large hook without being fully exposed. After working at it for a bit, Dr. Shane Boylan finally removed the hook and immediately began closing up Turquoise’s throat. It is dangerous to keep a sea turtle under anesthesia for too long, as they may never wake up. So we like to work as quickly as we can. A few hours later, Turquoise was awake but not breathing too regularly on his own, so Dr. Shane Boylan monitored him overnight. Finally on Saturday August 7, Turquoise went into a tank of shallow water!
August 12, 2021: Turquoise has been recovering nicely since his admit. Today was the first day we offered him food since his arrival, and he ate it immediately! We were so excited and have high hopes for the rest of his recovery.
September 15, 2021: Turquoise has been doing really well these past few weeks. This month, Turquoise was upgraded to a full tank of water and has finished his antibiotics! Now that he has been with us for a while, Turquoise is getting a full diet every day and loving every part of it. Even though his incision site has healed well and the sutures came out all on their own, Turquoise still needs a little more time in rehab. Sea Turtle Care Center staff will monitor him closely and continue to get monthly weights and measurements.
October 15, 2021: Turquoise has not had much change over these past few weeks. His incision site has completely healed which is great to see! Turquoise needs a little more time in rehab before being evaluated for release but is doing great overall.
November 15, 2021: Turquoise received a blood pull, weight check, exam and was tagged with a P.I.T tag at the beginning of the month. We are still awaiting for the results of the bloodwork but if the values are normal, we are hopeful we will be getting this patient back into the big blue soon!
January 15, 2022: Last month, Turquoise failed their bloodwork and it was decided that they needed a little more time in rehab. However, after another month our staff determined that enough time had passed and we could check bloodwork again. They have been eating well, defecating and taking their vitamins like a champ! Cross your fingers that this time Turquoise passes all the tests!
February 15, 2022: Turquoise is looking better than ever; you can barely see the incision site from their hook removal surgery! This month, Turquoise has been offered moon jellies as a form of enrichment. Needless to say, they thoroughly enjoyed it. Turquoise has continued to improve throughout their time in rehab and will be evaluated for release in the near future.
March 15, 2022: Turquoise has been doing so well in rehab that staff has decided it is time to evaluate them for release. Now we are just waiting on those results before making an official decision. Wish them luck!
April 5, 2022: Turquoise made a remarkable recovery after their fish hook surgery and was finally released after eight months in the Sea Turtle Care Center. Staff actually released Turquoise along with nine other Kemp’s ridley sea turtles! They were all returned home at Little Talbot Island State Park in Florida because the water temperatures in South Carolina are still a little too chilly for a local release.