CROW seeks live crab donations to care for two sea turtle patients
To support the care of two sea turtles, a kemp’s ridley, and a loggerhead, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is seeking the community’s help in donations of live crabs to feed the patients.
“Any kind of crab is fine,” Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron said of donations that can be dropped off at the hospital.
CROW will also accept monetary donations. She said when they buy crabs it has a price tag of $80, which only lasts for a meal between the two of the turtles.
A kemp’s ridley sea turtle, only weighing a kilogram suggesting he is probably in his third year, was admitted to CROW Friday, May 12 after being found entangled in fish netting 11 miles offshore. Barron said the kemp’s ridley sea turtle was also on the thin side when admitted.
“It was obvious that he had a near drowning experience. His lungs were full of fluids, salt water. The concern with that particular type of injury is because they have inhaled salt water, the salt actually holds fluids from the rest of the body into the lungs. Even if they didn’t drown initially, they are still at risk of drowning, sometimes three to four days later,” Barron said. “Luckily he has passed that dangerous part of this whole process.”
Unfortunately, as of Friday, May 19, the young sea turtle was in the dangerous stage of possibly getting fatal pneumonia. She said it’s a possibility because of all the salt water that was inhaled, which has a great deal of debris.
The kemp’s white blood count went from normal to much higher a few days after admitted, which Barron said would be consistent with pneumonia.
“The rest of his blood work, which was abnormal on admission, is much more normal now,” she said.
To fight the pneumonia, the kemp’s ridley is taking antibiotics to prevent it from occurring.
Although the X-rays looked better a week after admitted, Barron said they were still struggling in getting him to eat despite the variety of tempting menu items. To help the kemp’s ridley obtain the nutrition it needs, she said they were going to provide assisted eating Friday, May 19.
A grant from the sea turtle license plate program, afforded CROW with the opportunity to purchase a blood chemistry machine, an i-STAT, which stays at the hospital.
“It allows us, off of just two drops of blood, to get a variety of really important health measurements within just a couple of minutes. So, it allows us to look at all of his electrolytes, his blood sugar, his calcium levels, and those were fairly deranged on admission, but with treatment we got it all back within normal. Not only does it allow us to make very accurate diagnosis, but it allows us to treat more appropriately,” Barron said. “It allows us to monitor his progress to make sure we are doing everything properly. He has responded very, very well to treatment.”
In order to be released, the kemp’s ridley sea turtle lungs need to show they are completely cleared, have normal white blood cell count and gains some weight.
The kemp’s eat greens, crabs and invertebrates. Barron said as juveniles, they tend to eat more carnivorous, and herbivore once they get older.
“We have offered him a wide variety of small fish, squid, crabs, a special kind of chow, some homemade food that we make,” Barron said.
Another sea turtle was admitted to CROW on the same day, a 187-pound male loggerhead sea turtle, a floater, found near Captiva. She said the loggerhead was severely dehydrated with a heavy concentration of living organisms on its back, anemia and a high white blood cell count.
Barron said since the loggerhead was depressed, it had living organisms, barnacles, sea lice, algae, found on its shell. She said all of those would not have grown on him if he was moving around and healthy.
“Our concern is he has a type of parasite that is very common in turtles, but which we don’t know a lot about, but it does cause anemia” she said. “That is our big problem right now. We are trying to treat him for this parasite and also get his white blood cell count to come back up while simultaneously trying to get his red blood cell count to go down.”
Barron said the loggerhead had fluid in its abdomen and when that fluid was tapped there was evidence of an infection. The loggerhead has responded “beautifully” to the antibiotics.
“He is now able to submerge,” Barron said.
Unfortunately sometimes it takes a long time to get a sea turtles blood cell count to increase.
“Birds for example can make new red blood cells very, very rapidly. Normally their red blood cells only live for about 30 days, so they are used to cranking out their bone marrow and spitting out new red blood cells all of the time,” Barron said. “Dogs and cats, their red blood cells only live about 120 days. WIthin a week, or so, they will be cranking out new red blood cells. Birds it only takes a day, or two. The problem with reptiles, particularly with sea turtles, the normal life span of the red blood cell is a year, so their body isn’t used to having to kick out new red blood cells all the time.”
She said her experience with sea turtles is it takes anywhere from a month to three months to produce new red blood cells.
“We are probably in it for the long haul for him,” Barron said. “I’m sure he will be released eventually.”
So far nine sea turtles – loggerheads, kemp’s ridley and a green – have been admitted to CROW for rehabilitation since the beginning of the year.
Barron said if they ever do receive a spike in sea turtles being admitted to CROW it’s because of red tide.
“Summer is always a slow time and then it kicks back up in red tide season,” she said.
Last year they had five sea turtles in the month of May and did not receive any more until the fall when red tide hit the waters.