Sea Turtle Hospital Admits One of the Largest Reptiles in the World, First in State’s History

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500-Pound Leatherback Sea Turtle Receiving Treatment at South Carolina Aquarium


For the first time in South Carolina, a live leatherback sea turtle washed ashore and was admitted to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Hospital. The turtle, found stranded on Yawkey South Island Reserve near Georgetown, S.C. Saturday, March 7, is one of the few live leatherback strandings reported in the United States.

The juvenile sea turtle, estimated to weigh 500 pounds, was transported by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to the Aquarium to receive treatment. Upon admission the turtle, named Yawkey because of where s/he was rescued, was determined to be hypoglycemic. Yawkey displayed no signs of external trauma or any alarming bloodwork. Fluids were administered to the turtle to correct the hypoglycemia and antibiotics to combat possible internal infections.

The large turtle was later transferred to a holding pool and is under continuous observation. While the turtle may have an intestinal impaction or stranded due to being caught in a fishing net, supportive care is being provided and the root cause of the turtle's stranding may never be identified. Due to the fact that leatherback sea turtles do poorly in a captive environment, Sea Turtle Hospital team members plan to release the animal back to the wild as soon as possible.

During the spring and fall seasons, leatherback sea turtles migrate through our coastal waters. Currently they can be found nesting off the Florida coast, a key reason Sea Turtle Hospital team members are eager to return Yawkey to warmer waters.

For photos and video of the turtle click here.

Fast facts:

  • 500-pound endangered leatherback sea turtle is now receiving treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program
  • The first live stranding of a leatherback sea turtle in South Carolina
  • The turtle, named Yawkey, is believed to be a juvenile, under 10 years old
  • For photos and video click here
  • Leatherback sea turtles are listed as an endangered species
  • Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles on earth

What can you do?:
You can help protect threatened and endangered sea turtles. If you find a sick or injured sea turtle, contact the SCDNR sea turtle hotline at (800) 922-5431. You may also help care for sea turtles in recovery in the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program by going to and making a donation.

To read about our patients or track their recovery progress, visit our Sea Turtle Rescue Program blog at Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from the hospital, including public sea turtle release details.

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, during the past 10 years the average number of sea turtle standings on South Carolina beaches each year is 128. Of these, roughly 10 percent are alive and successfully transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital. To date, the South Carolina Aquarium has successfully rehabilitated and released 154 sea turtles and is currently treating 16 patients. The average cost for each patient’s treatment is $35 per 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 5 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: Toddlers (2 and under) free; Youth (3-12) $17.95; Adults (13+) $24.95. The Aquarium plus the 4-D Theater experience is free for Toddlers, $22.95 for Children, $29.95 for Adults. The 4-D Theater experience only is $6.95 for Children and Adults, and free for Members. 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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