Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Arrival Date: 9/2/18
Weight: 94 kg (205 lbs)
On an early Sunday morning, J.K. Rowling was found stranded on Kiawah Island. She was very lethargic and covered with lots of barnacles, oysters, algae, sea whips and skeleton shrimp. Knowing this turtle was sick, Kiawah Island Turtle Team leader Lynne Sager quickly contacted South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Emma Schultz of SCDNR picked up and transported this debilitated turtle for treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium.
J.K. Rowling was in rough body condition. She was thin, lethargic and covered in a heavy epibiota load. Based on her size, Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) staff were pretty certain she was an adult female, and a measurement of her top shell confirmed it. She also had a flipper tag on her right front flipper, and she had a P.I.T tag which is really unique – not many of our patients are previously tagged. J.K. Rowling’s heart rate was very low, and her bloodwork indicated that she was anemic, or had a low red blood cell count. Our admitting staff administered fluids under the skin to help rehydrate her, along with Hetastarch. Hetastarch helps the circulatory system work more efficiently by keeping fluids in the vascular space. She was also started on antibiotics to help combat any new or existing infection present in her body. After fluids were administered, she was moved into a shallow water tank and left to rest comfortably overnight.
September 6, 2018: J.K. Rowling has been responding to treatment well and even started eating on her first day with us! She is getting stronger but is still in a shallow water tank. She received a CT a few days after admit, and everything looked normal. J.K. has been started on a small diet, and has not defecated yet. Once she’s defecating normally, we will start increasing her diets.
October 15, 2018: We are so happy to report, that since our last update, J.K. has improved significantly! She is now at a full tank and eating like a champion! We pulled her this week for a weight, measurement and vet check – everything is looking good. Now she just needs several months of supportive care, nutritious food, excellent water quality and time. We are hopeful she will make a full recovery and be ready for release come spring of 2019!
November 1, 2018: J.K. Rowling is responding well to treatment. She is now on a weighted diet, which is being slowly increased, and is finally poopin’ up a storm! When a patient starts to defecate normally, that means they are able to pass the food we are feeding them. J.K. is in a tank with shallow water but we are slowly increasing the depth as she gets stronger.
November 15, 2018: J.K. Rowling was pulled for a weight and physical exam this week and is improving overall. Though she’s maintaining weight, and is getting stronger, she still feels soft on the bone of her carapace, so she’s going to need more time to recover. J.K is one of our messier turtles, and keeps our staff and volunteers busy cleaning her tank.
December 1, 2018: J.K. Rowling is on the up and up and recovering from debilitated turtle syndrome. We increased her diet and she’s receiving over 7 pounds of food a day! She needs all this extra nutrition to help gain weight and get stronger. We closely monitor her weight to make sure she is not gaining weight too quickly.
December 15, 2018: Last week, J.K. Rowling was pulled for her monthly weight and measurement and overall she is looking pretty great. She still has quite a few pounds to put on but her carapace is feeling more firm, than when she was first admitted. She is still receiving a hefty diet each day and we spend a lot of time keeping up with her tank to make sure it is clean.
January 1, 2019: J.K. Rowling celebrated the New Year getting almost 8 pounds of food! She’s having difficulty gaining weight, so she is on .a higher weighted diet than normal. We will pull her for another weight recheck in 2 weeks to see how things are looking.
January 15, 2018: J.K Rowling will have her weight recheck this week, and we are hoping she’s gained more than she did a few weeks ago. We gave J.K. a dewormer to see if it helps her shed any intestinal parasites she might have, even though her fecal was clear. Other than that, she’s very active and loves her fish pops!
February 1, 2019: J.K. Rowling was pulled for a weight and measurement two weeks ago, and she is gaining weight! She also looked stronger, her shell was more firm and she’s slowly but surely on the mend.
February 15, 2019: There’s nothing new to report; J.K Rowling is doing well! We will pull her for another weight check at the end of the month to make sure she’s gaining weight.
March 1, 2019: J.K. Rowling was pulled for monthly weight and measurement and received a physical exam by Dr. Shane. Overall, J.K. Rowling is looking good, but her shell still feels a little “soft” so she needs more time to recover from the effects of debilitation. Other than that, she’s a great eater and finishes her large diet with no problem!
March 15, 2019: Nothing major to report about J.K. Rowling — we are going to pull her for a weight and measurement again this week to check on her weight gain. If she continues to stay the course with her weight gain, that’s a great sign!
April 1, 2019: J.K. Rowling came out for her weight and measurement looking great. She is definitely very strong; it took a team of staff and volunteers to pull her out of her tank! J.K. is still putting on weight — she weighs a hefty 230 pounds! She is still a little soft on her marginal scutes, but overall she’s in great body condition. Over the next couple of weeks, we might start to think about starting the tagging process on her. Don’t worry though, J.K. will be around for a little while longer!
April 15, 2019: J.K. Rowling is continuing to do well, and we will be pulling her for another weight check next week.
May 4, 2019: We’re planning on moving J.K. Rowling into an open tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. During her move, she will receive a blood draw, weight, measurement and physical exam.
May 15, 2019: J.K. Rowling has moved up to the big leagues! She is now in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery where everyone can see her in all her glory. While she was out we measured and weighed her and saw that she’s grown and gained weight! She’s gained a whopping 33 pounds since her admit date. Be sure to come check out J.K. in her new tank!
June 15, 2019: J.K. is loving her new digs! She was recently tagged for release. She now has a new flipper tag added to her right front flipper. Since J.K. was previously rehabbed at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, she still had her other flipper tag and a PIT tag so she only needed one tag added. Flipper tags are a great visual cue to know the animal has been helped or seen by researchers in the past. A PIT tag is a microchip tag very similar to what a cat or dog might have. Neither of these tags give us the ability to track them, but if they do strand or are caught again you can ID them with the numbers on the tags. This tagging process doesn’t mean J.K. is ready to go anytime soon but it means she’s one flipper closer!
July 1, 2019: J.K.’s bloodwork from tagging in June came back a little strange. Her white blood cell count was within normal range, but she had an abnormally high percentage of Eosinophils. Usually a high count of these mean either infection or inflammation. Typically, this is seen when patients are new to the hospital because they’re usually fighting some type of infection. When J.K. first came in, those values were through the roof, so they have decreased while she’s been in our care. After we got these results, we treated her with a dewormer because it could be a parasite causing these strange blood values. Two weeks after the medication was given, we pulled her out for another blood pull. We’re still waiting on the results, but hopefully the values look a little more normal this time!