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Get Shelled: A Tale of Testudine Rehabilitation

Sep 30 '12
I’ll try to update this again, but maybe not weekly and in not as great detail, but here I’ll try to summarize the last multiple weeks as best as possible.In the past few months, I’ve definitely gotten to do much more. Reading through my old posts is like reading my old intern blog from the beginning. It seems I did so little in comparison to what I do now and I’m still slowly getting given new duties over time.We’ve had lots of testudines in and out, both Sea Turtles and Gopher Tortoises as well as the odd Box Turtle or two. For a while, it seemed like there were a lot of animals that weren’t able to make it and it felt like most newcomers either passed away naturally or were Euthanized, but as of the past month, I can name only two who were lost, to my knowledge - a little Green named Mabel and a Gopher named Scar (as in, Lion King!), both of which didn’t make it.We currently have one Loggerhead around who came at the start of the Olympics and is appropriately named Torch because of his arrival period, but had two prior. One was named Lionel and he lasted about two weeks before passing away; he was the first incoming Sea Turtle I got to measure and, in doing so, touch. Measurements I made were notch to tip, notch to notch, and the widest part of his shell from side to side. We had a third who was never named who passed away almost immediately due to many complications, the most notable being the ingestion of monofilament (aka, fishing) line. All three of the Loggerheads had ingested it, but Torch is still pulling through.We’ve had our hatchlings come and go. Whenever a hatchling passes, we put it in in a plastic bag sorted by month in a freezer for a census count. it is a little gruesome to think about, but not so bad because they passed naturally and that’s just life. So far, all we’ve had are Loggerhead babies, but I’m still rooting for a Green to come in before the season is over. We have about a month left, so we’ll see. We DID have an absolutely adorable Leucistic hatchling who defied the odds and survived with us for about three weeks before getting the chance to be released with numerous other hatchlings into the ocean. Due to its coloration - white, but not albinistic, since its eyes were black and not red - its odds of survival are low, but I would much rather it make it back to the ocean and become food or naturally die out there than at our facility. Of the photos I originally posted with the two babies I had unofficially (that is to say, mentally) named Thor and Loki, Thor passed, but Loki made it. In fact, Loki was a BEAST when he left, having spent about two months with us and I think he will DEFINITELY make it out in the ocean again!We also had our first washback two weeks ago. A washback differs by size and also in the sense that washbacks are just that, babies that hatched and made it to the ocean, only they’ve come back in for one reason or another. We usually keep them around and fatten them up like the hatchlings and wait until we can get them on a boat to be dropped out into the ocean again.
I was also cleared about a month ago to start prepping tubes for fluids, food, and vitamins, and I can also administer any non-medicated food to the Gophers alone. Tubing involves cutting off the E.G. tube with the hemostats, pulling out the syringe that acts as a stopper to keep anything from getting into the tube, place the syringe containing food or fluids into the mouth of the tube, release the hemostats, administer the food or fluids, re-clasp the hemostats, pull out the syringe and put the “plug” syringe back in, then release the hemostats. It sounds complicated and I admit, I made a few mistakes at the start, but now it’s pretty easy. I was supervised initially, but now I’m told to draw up tubes and administer them myself. Some of the Gophers put up quite the fight and they either run away or don’t want to sit neatly on your leg if you hold them up. I also have been able to help in tubing Torch. One time, I got to hold him up, the second time, I was able to administer his fluids. As I’ve developed quite the soft spot for him, it was a thrill!
And, most recently, I’ve been able to start holding some of the Green Sea Turtles while they’re either given fluids or tubed through their throats. It was explained to me that long-term tubed turtles get the E.G. tubes, but for those who it is a temporary thing, it’s much easier to tube them down their throats. Last weekend, I held our littlest green, a tiny little thing named Dipper. They call her Little Dipper as a nickname and it fits. I held her while she was tubed. She was also the first turtle I grabbed by myself. After snapping up un-taped Gators at work, a little Green was no problem and they praised me for it! Today, I was able to hold Siesta, a Green who we think has Papilloma (like Herpes in humans) while she was given his fluid injection. Allie picked him up, since some of them can be fighters and it was only my second time, but he was pretty fantastic and easily transferred to me while I had my thumb and pointer around each front flipper, holding his back end to my stomach, supporting him with my hands and wrists. After I had him, Allie had to go get something from the main turtle area (Siesta is in Quarantine due to the believed Papilloma) and I was just standing there, holding a little Green Sea Turtle and unable to believe that this was my life. I love it!They’re even considering letting me release Mufasa when his time comes since I live close to where he was injured and will need to be released. He’s doing much better since he came in, so I’m excited that the possibility might be real!Lastly, a little sidenote that I am now the singular Sunday afternoon volunteer now. The intern left (and she is missed!), one woman, Heather, changed to Saturdays for her job, and one we had one day never came back. So now it’s just Allie, Jackie, and myself to get everything done. It’s a lot of work, but there is always something to do and whenever there’s something a bit more hands-on involved (like tubing or helping holding turtles and their ilk), they often ask if I would like to help. Unlike my internship, where I had three other interns vying for the “fun stuff,” it’s now one of the three of us and I’m a little spoiled that way. Cradling a sea turtle or handling hatchlings makes it completely worth all the dirty, tiring work. I wouldn’t be anywhere else on Sundays, I just couldn’t imagine it at this moment in time and it’s only been about four months!As of writing this, our animals are as follows: Sea Turtles - Sydney (G), Torch (L), Caleb (KR), (Little) Dipper (G), Shakira (G), Flurry (G), and Siesta (G). Babies - One washback, three hatchlings - all Loggerheads. Gophers - Susie, Sienna, Orly, Oscar, Calzone, Winkie, Mufasa, Nueve, and I feel like I’m forgetting one or two. We have a bunch! Boxes - Kringle the resident and a little, nameless Box that will be released tomorrow.

I’ll try to update this again, but maybe not weekly and in not as great detail, but here I’ll try to summarize the last multiple weeks as best as possible.

In the past few months, I’ve definitely gotten to do much more. Reading through my old posts is like reading my old intern blog from the beginning. It seems I did so little in comparison to what I do now and I’m still slowly getting given new duties over time.

We’ve had lots of testudines in and out, both Sea Turtles and Gopher Tortoises as well as the odd Box Turtle or two. For a while, it seemed like there were a lot of animals that weren’t able to make it and it felt like most newcomers either passed away naturally or were Euthanized, but as of the past month, I can name only two who were lost, to my knowledge - a little Green named Mabel and a Gopher named Scar (as in, Lion King!), both of which didn’t make it.

We currently have one Loggerhead around who came at the start of the Olympics and is appropriately named Torch because of his arrival period, but had two prior. One was named Lionel and he lasted about two weeks before passing away; he was the first incoming Sea Turtle I got to measure and, in doing so, touch. Measurements I made were notch to tip, notch to notch, and the widest part of his shell from side to side. We had a third who was never named who passed away almost immediately due to many complications, the most notable being the ingestion of monofilament (aka, fishing) line. All three of the Loggerheads had ingested it, but Torch is still pulling through.


We’ve had our hatchlings come and go. Whenever a hatchling passes, we put it in in a plastic bag sorted by month in a freezer for a census count. it is a little gruesome to think about, but not so bad because they passed naturally and that’s just life. So far, all we’ve had are Loggerhead babies, but I’m still rooting for a Green to come in before the season is over. We have about a month left, so we’ll see. We DID have an absolutely adorable Leucistic hatchling who defied the odds and survived with us for about three weeks before getting the chance to be released with numerous other hatchlings into the ocean. Due to its coloration - white, but not albinistic, since its eyes were black and not red - its odds of survival are low, but I would much rather it make it back to the ocean and become food or naturally die out there than at our facility. Of the photos I originally posted with the two babies I had unofficially (that is to say, mentally) named Thor and Loki, Thor passed, but Loki made it. In fact, Loki was a BEAST when he left, having spent about two months with us and I think he will DEFINITELY make it out in the ocean again!

We also had our first washback two weeks ago. A washback differs by size and also in the sense that washbacks are just that, babies that hatched and made it to the ocean, only they’ve come back in for one reason or another. We usually keep them around and fatten them up like the hatchlings and wait until we can get them on a boat to be dropped out into the ocean again.

I was also cleared about a month ago to start prepping tubes for fluids, food, and vitamins, and I can also administer any non-medicated food to the Gophers alone. Tubing involves cutting off the E.G. tube with the hemostats, pulling out the syringe that acts as a stopper to keep anything from getting into the tube, place the syringe containing food or fluids into the mouth of the tube, release the hemostats, administer the food or fluids, re-clasp the hemostats, pull out the syringe and put the “plug” syringe back in, then release the hemostats. It sounds complicated and I admit, I made a few mistakes at the start, but now it’s pretty easy. I was supervised initially, but now I’m told to draw up tubes and administer them myself. Some of the Gophers put up quite the fight and they either run away or don’t want to sit neatly on your leg if you hold them up. I also have been able to help in tubing Torch. One time, I got to hold him up, the second time, I was able to administer his fluids. As I’ve developed quite the soft spot for him, it was a thrill!

And, most recently, I’ve been able to start holding some of the Green Sea Turtles while they’re either given fluids or tubed through their throats. It was explained to me that long-term tubed turtles get the E.G. tubes, but for those who it is a temporary thing, it’s much easier to tube them down their throats. Last weekend, I held our littlest green, a tiny little thing named Dipper. They call her Little Dipper as a nickname and it fits. I held her while she was tubed. She was also the first turtle I grabbed by myself. After snapping up un-taped Gators at work, a little Green was no problem and they praised me for it! Today, I was able to hold Siesta, a Green who we think has Papilloma (like Herpes in humans) while she was given his fluid injection. Allie picked him up, since some of them can be fighters and it was only my second time, but he was pretty fantastic and easily transferred to me while I had my thumb and pointer around each front flipper, holding his back end to my stomach, supporting him with my hands and wrists. After I had him, Allie had to go get something from the main turtle area (Siesta is in Quarantine due to the believed Papilloma) and I was just standing there, holding a little Green Sea Turtle and unable to believe that this was my life. I love it!

They’re even considering letting me release Mufasa when his time comes since I live close to where he was injured and will need to be released. He’s doing much better since he came in, so I’m excited that the possibility might be real!

Lastly, a little sidenote that I am now the singular Sunday afternoon volunteer now. The intern left (and she is missed!), one woman, Heather, changed to Saturdays for her job, and one we had one day never came back. So now it’s just Allie, Jackie, and myself to get everything done. It’s a lot of work, but there is always something to do and whenever there’s something a bit more hands-on involved (like tubing or helping holding turtles and their ilk), they often ask if I would like to help. Unlike my internship, where I had three other interns vying for the “fun stuff,” it’s now one of the three of us and I’m a little spoiled that way. Cradling a sea turtle or handling hatchlings makes it completely worth all the dirty, tiring work. I wouldn’t be anywhere else on Sundays, I just couldn’t imagine it at this moment in time and it’s only been about four months!

As of writing this, our animals are as follows: Sea Turtles - Sydney (G), Torch (L), Caleb (KR), (Little) Dipper (G), Shakira (G), Flurry (G), and Siesta (G). Babies - One washback, three hatchlings - all Loggerheads. Gophers - Susie, Sienna, Orly, Oscar, Calzone, Winkie, Mufasa, Nueve, and I feel like I’m forgetting one or two. We have a bunch! Boxes - Kringle the resident and a little, nameless Box that will be released tomorrow.