Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Stranding Location: May River in Bluffton, SC

Arrival Date: 05/29/2010

Age: juvenile

Weight: 3.68 kg (8 lbs)

Case History

This 2.96 kg Kemp’s ridley arrived at 11:00 p.m. Saturday night (29 May) with fresh wounds on her carapace and head, likely the result of a recent boat strike. Her overall body condition was excellent, indicating that s/he was not debilitated and floating at the surface but simply surfacing to breathe when injured. Although the wound on her head is superficial, the injury to her carapace is severe and the bone of her shell is completely separated in certain areas. Luckily, the injury does not extend into her body cavity (the lungs appear intact) and her plastron is essentially undamaged.

Treatment

Bloodwork suggested significant blood loss from the trauma, so May was started on fluids and antibiotics. This spunky little ridley’s wounds are being flushed daily with copious amounts of saline to remove organic debris and bacteria, packed with SSD to minimize the risk of bacterial infection, and covered with ioban (an adhesive antimicrobial drape). Analgesics (painkillers) are being administered regularly, and May’s activity level is good considering her injury. Surgery will likely be necessary to reunite the damaged areas of her carapace.

Updates

2 June 2010: May is on pain meds, which is helping to alleviate her lethargic state. Today, we deemed her stable enough for surgery to repair her shell. Sadly, the boat strike didn’t leave much to work with, but we stabilized separated sections with various hardware. Thanks to a Nutramaxx donation, we were able to fill in the defects with bone replacement material.

3 July 2010: May is doing so well! S/he initially showed no interest in food and required tube-feeding and subcutaneous fluids through 14 June. After passing a few normal fecals, her appetite improved and s/he’s been eating on her own as of 15 June. Additionally, s/he regained normal buoyancy control in mid-June and has gone from resting at the surface of the water to swimming and resting on the bottom. Her shell is beginning to show signs of healing, and we are hopeful this lucky little ridley will make a full recovery.

7 August 2010: The rate of healing we’ve seen in May’s severe wounds has astounded us. This little ridley’s carapace wound is closed and already covered by keratin. May is truly a survivor and will remain in our care for now to allow the carapace wound to continue to heal (the granulation tissue needs to thicken and harden).

9 December 2010: May joined sea turtles from the Virginia Aquarium and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in a beach release at Cape Canaveral, Florida, today. This is the first time the Aquarium has partnered with rehabilitation facilities in other states to release turtles when local waters are too cold, and the release was a success!

Release Date

12/09/2010

Release Location

Cape Canaveral, Florida