The Sea Turtle Healing Center cares for sick or injured sea turtles found primarily along the nearby Florida coast. While this facility is not open to the public, the effects of its work impact local sea turtle populations. An in-county facility means a shorter drive for patients, resulting in less stress and quicker treatment for distressed turtles.
Date admitted: October 10, 2021
Stranding location: Jetty Park
Status: In treatment
Admission notes: This juvenile green turtle came to the STHC on October 10, after being found struggling at the surface of the water in Jetty Park. This turtle has a “twitch”, where they flick their head, and it almost looks like they have hiccups. (In mammals, hiccups are caused from a muscle spasm in the diaphragm. Reptiles don’t have diaphragms so what this turtle is experiencing is not actually a hiccup). We believe this turtle could have some neurologic distress, causing the head twitch. Due to the spasm, the turtle is not able to get their head up and take a proper breath, so they are in a shallow kiddy pool for the time being. We brought this turtle for a CT at the Rockledge Regional Medical Center and sent out samples from Hiccup to test for toxins. We do not have either of these reports back yet. Upon intake this turtle had no interest in eating but they have started to take their first bites in the last couple days!
March 24, 2022: Hiccup is a brand-new turtle! They are active, curious, and very interested in their new roommate, Jackal. This patient continues to eat voraciously and has been taken off their medications. We are hopeful that this sea turtle will be releasable soon!
February 23, 2022: It only took four months (to the day), but Hiccup finally started to eat on their own! They didn’t just eat tiny nibbles either, they started eating like they had been doing it this entire time! Full leaves of lettuce and a full dish of fish, shrimp and clam, no problem. We have since stopped tube feeding and will remove their feeding tube soon. During the first few days of eating, their behaviors also changed. They went from being very shy and quiet to using their enrichments and actively swimming!
February 7, 2022: Hiccup’s last CT scan uncovered some concerning nodules in their liver. We sent out plasma samples to assess bile acid levels and the results were within range, so the nodules are not currently affecting liver function. Hiccup still will not eat on their own and their interest in trying to eat waxes and wanes.
January 17, 2022: Hiccup has been doing great outside of their kiddie pool. They are not too active, but we are just happy to see them able to swim on their own. Hiccup will spook easily so we must work very slowly and quietly around this sea turtle. We are making slow progress with their feeding. They have been able to bite onto pieces of clam a few times! Unfortunately, once the clam is in their mouth, they have a hard time chewing and will eventually spit the piece out. We have this sea turtle on the schedule for another CT scan next week to monitor the progress of their plastron fractures and hyoid bone.
December 30, 2021: Hiccup is finally Caryospora free! They also started showing more activity in their kiddie pool, so we were encouraged to push them a little. We moved Hiccup out of the kiddie pool, supervised, for short amounts of time at first. They took a lot of time to adjust to swimming again and seemed to have a hard time controlling their buoyancy, as they would sink to the bottom like a rock. They would then have a hard time swimming to the surface, spooking any time they touched the side of the pool. Eventually, they calmed down and were able to navigate their pool better. We did these supervised free swims for a few days and worked up to them not needing the kiddie pool anymore! Hiccup still struggles with eating, as they are seen often trying to open their mouth to eat but they still can’t. Since they can’t eat on their own yet, we continue to give them food through their e-tube.
December 9, 2021: Hiccup has had little change. We started them on pain medication to help with their fractures but have not seen great improvement. Hiccup is still in their kiddie pool as they have a hard time navigating a full-sized pool.
November 15, 2021: Hiccup had a CT scan on October 5 and it uncovered plastron fractures and carapace abnormalities. Staff also noticed that their right hyoid bone is fractured. Hiccup’s “hiccups” have not subsided, and they still will not eat on their own. Staff has placed an e-tube to facilitate feeding to keep weight on this sea turtle while more diagnostics are taken. During this time, Hiccup became positive for Caryospora and we began treatments for this infection.
Have you found a sea turtle that needs help? Visit this page or call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society at 321-206-0646.