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Journey of Chocolate, the Green Sea Turtle

Chocolate at time of admission to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center Hospital

X-ray showing 4 large masses

CT imaging determined the extent and location of the mass

Chocolate during surgery to remove the mass, located near his reproductive organs. LtoR: Vincent Arlauskas, MD/SGHS Chief of Surgery-Brunswick, GA, Terry Norton, DVM/GSTC Director, and several staff members.

Swimming healed and happy again and ready for release!

By Terry M. Norton, DVM, DACZM, Director and Veterinarian

JIA Georgia Sea Turtle Center

During the winter months the Georgia Sea Turtle Center commonly receives cold stunned turtles, often from other parts of the country, such as Massachusetts. Each year the GSTC creates a “naming theme” for these patients. One year the theme was ice cream flavors and a young green turtle patient that year was named “Chocolate.”  For the first couple of months, Chocolate was a routine case, requiring only basic supportive care (fluids, antibiotics, good nutrition) and was ready for release after about 8 weeks.  

Unfortunately, just prior to release, the left-side bottom (called the plastron) of his shell appeared enlarged. New X-ray equipment purchased with the generous help of Jekyll Island Foundation donors, provide much higher quality images in less time.  Staff X-rayed Chocolate and discovered a large mass in his body cavity.  Further CT imaging was pursued to determine the extent and location of the mass.  A needle attached to a syringe was carefully and sterilely placed through the skin into the body cavity and into the mass where a large amount of clear fluid was withdrawn.  The diagnosis was a large cyst. 

Once diagnosed, less aggressive treatments, diagnostic monitoring, and draining of the cyst were done initially to help Chocolate. But these methods did not result in his improvement.  Thus, exploratory surgery utilizing another piece of donated equipment from JIF – a laparoscope (sterile telescope with a camera on it) was used to better evaluate the cyst and its location which assisted in determining the next course of action.  Shortly thereafter, surgery was performed to remove the cyst, which was next to the testicle.  Microscopic examination revealed the mass was part of the reproductive tract. 

Chocolate did great after surgery and was successfully released 12 months after admission. Great news indeed!  For a more detailed look at Chocolate’s case, an article was recently published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.   

To support the ongoing work of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and patients like Chocolate, text GiveJekyll + $ amount to (844) 889-2692

Contact Us

Jekyll Island Foundation

P.O. Box 13002, Jekyll Island, GA 31527
Phone: (912) 635-4100