Two Big Developments for the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program

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Rehabilitation Success Story Plus Sea Turtle Release

Big news out of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program-- an adult female loggerhead rehabilitated at the hospital and released in 2010 is contributing to the sea turtle population, and three sea turtles are ready to be returned to the Atlantic Ocean.

More on rehabilitation success story:

In 2008, an adult female loggerhead sea turtle was rescued off of Prichard’s Island near Beaufort, SC. She was spotted on several occasions trying to lay a nest but was unable to due to several boat strike wounds on the carapace. “Mama Prichard” was captured on the beach and transported to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital where she received treatment for twenty months. Released in 2010, Mama Pritchard is the largest sea turtle ever rehabilitated and released from the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital weighing 368-pounds. Mama Prichard turned up again in the Lowcountry. Scientists from the University of Georgia working closely with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on a DNA study of loggerhead nests have matched Mama Pritchard’s DNA to a nest recently laid on Prichard’s Island. This is the first time she has been matched to a nest since her release three years ago. This story is a remarkable example of the success of sea turtle rehabilitation for which limited data is available. The Fripp Island Turtle Team will continue to monitor Mama Prichard’s nest. To learn more about the Northern Recovery Unit Loggerhead Project, click here.

More on sea turtle release:

Three juvenile sea turtles representing three different species are ready to be returned to the open ocean. The public is invited to bid farewell to a Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, and green sea turtle on Wednesday, July 31st at 10:00 a.m. at the Isle of Palms County Park. The release is being held in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC). The releases are extremely well attended and attendees should plan to carpool, arrive early, and expect to pay for parking at the county park.

More on the turtles being released:


Splinter, a 60-pound juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was caught on board the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources research vessel, the Lady Lisa, in late May. The turtle was taken to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital with what appeared to be a large wooden splinter deeply embedded in the right rear flipper. The Aquarium’s rescue staff determined the material lodged in the turtle’s flipper was actually a bill from a swordfish. Splinter’s treatment included surgery to remove the bill, antibiotics, fluids, and wound care. After just two months of treatment, Splinter has been medically cleared for release.


Sutton, an 8-pound Kemp’s ridley, the most endangered sea turtle species, was brought to the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program in January of this year. Sutton was found cold-stunned off the coast of New England and was flown down to the sunny south on a flight donated by pilot Michael Taylor. Treatment included antibiotic and vitamin injections, fluid therapy, a healthy diet, and of course TLC.


Raker, an 8-pound juvenile green sea turtle was discovered washed up on Myrtle Beach on a cold day in April of this year. Named after the beach rakers that saved his/her life, Raker was suffering from multiple issues including a shell infection, poor blood work, dehydration and a low heart rate. An extremely low body temperature of 55 degrees F compounded the problems and the turtle was in intensive care for approximately 4 days. Treatment included slow warming of the body temperature, oxygen therapy, antibiotics, fluids, and topical treatment for the shell infection. Raker is back to optimal health, swimming around his/her containment pool, ready for a return to the ocean.

More about Cold Stunning:

When sea turtles are exposed to cold water temperatures for long periods of time, they undergo a hypothermic reaction. Symptoms of that reaction include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy, which may be followed by shock, pneumonia and, in the worst case scenarios, death. Sea turtles are affected by cold-stunning because they are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature. In cold weather, they don’t have the ability to warm themselves and typically migrate to warmer waters around the end of October.

How to Help:

You can help care for sea turtles in recovery at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital by going to and making a donation. While online, you can also visit the Sea Turtle Hospital’s blog at to track the progress of patients currently being cared for at the hospital. You can also find out more about visiting the hospital as part of a behind-the-scenes tour now offered seven days a week.

For all media inquiries, please contact Kate Dittloff at (843) 579-8660 or kdittloff(at)scaquarium(dot)org.

About the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program:

In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program works to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles that strand along the South Carolina coast. Located in the Aquarium, the Sea Turtle Hospital admits 20 to 30 sea turtles each year. Many of these animals are in critical condition and some are too sick to save.

According to SCDNR, over the last 10 years the average number of sea turtle standings on South Carolina beaches each year is 130. Of these, roughly 10% are alive and successfully transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital. To date, the South Carolina Aquarium has successfully rehabilitated and released 122 sea turtles and is currently treating 14 patients. The average cost for each patient’s treatment is $36 a day with the average length of stay reaching nine months.

About the South Carolina Aquarium:

The South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston’s most visited attraction, features thousands of amazing aquatic animals from river otters and sharks to loggerhead turtles in more than 60 exhibits representing the rich biodiversity of South Carolina from the mountains to the sea. Dedicated to promoting education and conservation, the Aquarium also presents fabulous views of Charleston harbor and interactive exhibits and programs for visitors of all ages.

The South Carolina Aquarium, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and is open Daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Aquarium is closed Thanksgiving Day, half day Dec. 24 (open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Dec. 25. Admission prices are: Toddler’s (3 and under) free; Youth (4-12) $14.95; Adults (13+) $24.95. The Aquarium plus the 4-D Theater experience is free for Toddler’s, $19.95 for Children, $29.95 for Adults. The 4-D Theater experience only is $6.95 for Children and adults, and free for Members. The Sea Turtle Rescue Program’s behind-the-scenes tours, now offered seven days a week, are $10 for adults and $5 for children. For more information call 843-720-1990 or visit Memberships are available by calling 843-577-FISH.

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Kate Dittloff
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