By Michelle Kaylor, Director of the JIA Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Terry Norton, Director of Veterinary Services and Animal Health
Pillar #1: Rehabilitation: Focus on the individual patient
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are one of the most critically endangered species of sea turtles. In March 2021, the Center received a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle traumatized by a dredge on the Georgia/Florida border. At this life stage, staff are unable to determine the turtle’s sex, but for simplicity’s sake we will call her a female. This injured turtle was named “Frontera”, Spanish for border.
When Frontera arrived at the GSTC, she received a full assessment to determine a course of treatment. She was extremely lethargic, had several fractures and trauma to her shell and skin, and could not open her eyes. She was immediately placed on oxygen therapy and then provided treatment for her eyes, including antibiotic drops, ointment, pain medications several times per day, and blood plasma transfusions using her own blood plasma (blood is a complex combination of numerous solids, including red blood cells that carry oxygen, and liquid plasma. Plasma contains enzymes and immune cells that assist in healing). To further assist in Frontera’s recovery, she was given nutritional and hydration support intravenously, and antimicrobial therapy. Her shell was surgically stabilized with screws, wires, and marine epoxy. Frontera has improved dramatically, especially as her appetite has normalized. She is likely to return to the wild in the early autumn if her positive recovery trend continues.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Instrumental to Frontera’s recovery is the regular use of a therapeutic laser. The Jekyll Island Foundation was actively involved in securing funds for, and the purchase of, the laser, as well as a state-of-the-art x-ray machine and ultrasound equipment. Many of the wound care products used in the healing process include items purchased because of generous donations – honey, RediHeal, Buck Mountain wound bomb, bone cement, food, medical supplies, and so much more.
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Find Pillar # 2 HERE, Pillar #3 HERE.
The care provided to patients by the GSTC rehabilitation team focuses on the animal, helping them survive and thrive. Pillar #2 – Education – is woven throughout the work of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and turns the focus to the human animal. Stay tuned to see how Education is at the heart of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.