Turtle released after recovering from face injuries
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel released a juvenile green sea turtle on Feb. 19, following more than three months of recovery from a fractured skull and other injuries to its face.
The turtle first arrived at the hospital in critical condition on Nov. 4 after being rescued from the Boca Grande pass by staff at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. CROW veterinarians assessed the turtle and found it to have multiple severe fractures on either side of its face-skull and a fractured plastron, or undershell. The fractures appeared to have been caused by some type of blunt trauma.
In the days following admission, the team of veterinarians and staff worked to control infections in the injured areas with localized and broad spectrum antibiotics. Despite the severe injuries, the turtle maintained a healthy body weight and was alert and responsive.
“Given the extent of the head injuries, it was surprising that this turtle was even alive and responsive,” Dr. Robin Bast, CROW staff veterinarian, said. “We knew it was going to be an uphill battle from the beginning.”
Bloodwork, radiographs and a CT scan helped show the extent of the damage and determine the turtle’s treatment plan. It underwent multiple surgeries to remove infected and dead tissue, along with continued antibiotic treatments and pain medication. Over time, the infections became resistant to the antibiotics being used and required more detailed testing to find medications that would be successful in fighting the bacterial infections.
As the injuries began to heal and the infections cleared, the turtle began further rehabilitation. The injuries to its face limited the use of its jaw which affected its ability to eat.
“We weren’t sure if this turtle was ever going to regain function in its jaw and be able to eat on its own,” Bast said. “So, it was a huge stepping stone in its journey to being able to be released.”
Over a few weeks, rehabilitation staff helped the turtle learn to eat on its own again.
After over three months of medical care and rehabilitation, the turtle was cleared for release. It was tagged with flipper tags and a passive integrated transponder tag prior to being released. The turtle was taken by boat and released a few miles off of the beach at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva.