For the "Luckiest Unlucky Sea Turtle," the Journey Home is Just Beginning

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Outfitted With a Satellite Tag, a Rehabilitated Kemp's Ridley Will Participate in South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Research Program

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If she hadn't been found, especially by a SCDNR vessel, she may not have survived another week. She's the luckiest unlucky turtle we've ever treated.

A 55-pound Kemp’s ridley sea turtle rehabilitated by the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) following the detrimental effects of human interaction is playing a critical role for science and education. “Peach” was released Monday morning in a partnership between the South Carolina Aquarium and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) with a satellite transmitter tag attached to her carapace. Peach is the first Kemp’s ridley rehabilitated at the South Carolina Aquarium to qualify for participation in a SCDNR research project looking at the migration of endangered Kemp’s ridleys in our coastal waters. She is also the first Kemp’s ridley to be rescued and satellite tagged in South Carolina.

Crew aboard the SCDNR research vessel Lady Lisa and lead scientist Mike Arendt captured Peach during a routine in-water sea turtle survey at the shipping entrance to the Charleston Harbor on June 1, 2017. The crew immediately noted monofilament line entangling her neck, deeply embedded around her left front flipper, and protruding from her mouth, suggesting Peach had most likely swallowed a hook. After a quick boat transport to the Sea Turtle Care Center, STCC staff gently removed the line, but as triage progressed, they discovered monofilament line protruding from her esophagus.

An endoscopy performed by South Carolina Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Shane Boylan revealed that the monofilament line extended through her throat and into her stomach. After cutting the line as far down as possible, it was evident the line continued into Peach’s intestines. In the first publicly-viewed sea turtle surgery in the McNair Center for Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Surgery Suite, Dr. Boylan and STCC staff successfully removed 120 centimeters of monofilament from Peach’s intestines.

“If she hadn't been found, especially by a SCDNR vessel, she may not have survived another week. She's the luckiest unlucky turtle we've ever treated. ” said Dr. Boylan.

During the surgery, STCC staff confirmed that Peach is a female, and her large size suggested that she was also mature. Reproductive-aged females are very important members of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley population. Because of her large size and the timing of her release, Peach was an ideal candidate to help answer an important research question: where do the Kemp’s ridleys that SCDNR biologists study in the summer travel during the winter? For the past two years, the SCDNR in-water sea turtle research program has focused on learning more about the movement of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, placing satellite transmitter tags on 16 of 95 captured off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia. So far, the results have shown that the turtles rely heavily on foraging grounds between north Florida and southern South Carolina.

“Peach has gone from being a turtle on the brink of death to our first opportunity to find out where Kemp’s ridley sea turtles captured in our trawl surveys spend the winter,” said SCDNR assistant marine scientist Mike Arendt.

A satellite transmitter tag was applied to Peach’s carapace on Monday morning, and she was released back into the Atlantic Ocean from the north end of Folly Beach. Peach will now provide critical information to help scientists learn more about the Kemp’s ridley population as her journey home continues. The public can learn more about SCDNR’s sea turtle research and follow Peach’s daily journey via satellite tracking pings here.

Follow the South Carolina Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from the Sea Turtle Care Center.

About the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Marine Resources Division serves as the primary advocate for and steward of the state’s marine resources. Studying everything from algae to sea turtles and tiger sharks, the division’s biologists, fisheries managers, and educators work to protect and conserve South Carolina's coastal waters and wildlife for future generations. Learn more at DNR.SC.GOV.

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

According to SCDNR, during the past 10 years, the average number of sea turtle strandings 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 236 sea turtles and currently has 12 patients in its care.

About the South Carolina Aquarium:
The South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston’s most-visited attraction, features thousands of 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 sweeping views of the Charleston harbor along with interactive exhibits and programs for visitors of all ages.

The South Carolina Aquarium is 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) $22.95; Adults (13+) $29.95. For more information, call (843) 577-FISH (3474), or visit

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Bethany Kelley

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