Less Traveled 2012

Ernie Wiggins



Three sea turtles released into ocean after stay in hospital

Posted 7/13/2011 3:46:00 PM

The S.C. Aquarium in Charleston bid farewell this week to three recent patients of its Sea Turtle Hospital – two loggerheads, Grice and Lady Lisa, and a rare and endangered Kemp’s ridley named Bennett.

With support from hundreds of onlookers and well-wishers at Beachwalker County Park on Kiawah Island, aquarium staff members returned the three rescued and rehabilitated turtles to the open waters.

When S.C. Department of Natural Resources staff members caught Grice on May 13 they saw the turtle was covered with lesions, leeches and barnacles. A treatment of antibiotics and vitamins restored Grice’s health, and it was the first of the three to amble into the surf on Tuesday.

Bennett, the Kemp’s ridley, was found on June 9 with a stingray barb wound near the right rear flipper. Sea Turtle Hospital staff members cleaned the wound and administered antibiotics, fluids and vitamins.

Bennett seemed a little disoriented as she made her way into the surf, but with an assist from aquarium staffers and volunteers (and Mother Nature) she shuffled into the ocean like a pro.

Lady Lisa was suffering from a loss of keratin (the protective outer layer of skin) on the flippers when the turtle was captured by DNR staffers on June 6. Antibiotics administered at the hospital cleared up the problem, and Lisa eagerly (and relatively swiftly) returned to the ocean to the cheers of the crowd.

The S.C. Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program has rehabilitated more than 70 sick and injured sea turtles since it was founded in 2000. The Sea Turtle Hospital was formally established in 2005. Turtles stay on average between 7-8 months at the hospital before returning to the ocean. After this week’s release, there are 10 turtle patients being treated for a variety of ailments.

The hospital costs more than $200,000 a year to operate, funding that is provided through donations. Many supporters choose to adopt turtles at one of two levels – the $100 Turtle Tracker level, the benefits of which include a personalized adoption certificate, fact sheet, decal, admission tickets, tributaries Membership magazine, Seat Turtle Rescue email updates and special invitations to sea turtle releases. The $250 Turtle Rescuer level includes all of the benefits above plus a Behind-the-Scenes Turtle Hospital Tour for the donor and a guest.

Visitors to South Carolina and beach residents are reminded that during nesting season -- typically spring and summer months -- they should minimize artificial lighting from beachfront homes and avoid using flashlights on the beach. Also, recreational equipment should be removed from the beach overnight and plastic bags and Styrofoam should be properly disposed of. These items can be mistaken for food by turtles and other marine life.

If you’d like to see the operation first-hand, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital. For more information, click here.