by Rachel Overmeyer, GSTC Rehabilitation Program Manager
Guests visiting The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) have the opportunity to meet different sea turtle patients during their visit. Currently, the largest patient, Bandit, steals the show, fully living up to his charismatic name.
Bandit is a juvenile green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) that stranded on Little St. Simon’s Island, GA on April 21, 2021. When Bandit arrived at the GSTC, there were a couple of things that stood out to the GSTC rehab staff that made Bandit special.
The first being Bandit’s size. On arrival Bandit was almost 2 feet and weighed 60 pounds. The average green sea turtle patient admitted to the GSTC weighs around 7 pounds and is less than a foot in length, so Bandit was certainly a sight to see!
Something else that the staff noticed were some small lesions on the skin and plastron (bottom shell) that were consistent with a virus called Fibropapillomatosis, causing tumors to form. The tumors can become large and impede movement, vision, and the turtle’s health overtime. After a few months of care, Bandit’s tumors were surgically removed with a CO2 laser purchased from funding support with donations acquired through the Jekyll Island Foundation.
The most significant finding, however, was a healed boat propellor wound, which damaged the spine, causing Bandit to have partial paralysis of the rear flippers as well as floatation issues. To aid his movement, Bandit currently has a weight pouch attached to the carapace (top shell) that aids in controlling buoyancy.
After analyzing the boat strike injury and determining the likelihood of recovery, Bandit has been deemed a non-releasable sea turtle. The GSTC is in the process of finding a forever home within a Zoo or Aquarium. Bandit’s care is the top priority for the staff and while Bandit has been deemed a healthy turtle, the staff are making sure that Bandit has the proper nutrition, medical care, and enrichment needed to maintain physical and mental health, until a permanent home can be found.
So be sure to stop by and visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Bandit but be careful because your heart might just be stolen too!
The Jekyll Island Foundation’s funding supports the Center’s rehabilitation mission helping every turtle’s journey to heal, with a goal of making it back home. To help support the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, click HERE. To learn more about the Jekyll Island Foundation, click HERE.