News / USA

Trauma Center Treats Sea Turtles

Georgia hospital tries to improve chances for loggerhead sea turtles

Ziva, a female loggerhead turtle being treated by veterinarian Terry Norton, was injured after being hit by a boat.
Ziva, a female loggerhead turtle being treated by veterinarian Terry Norton, was injured after being hit by a boat.

Multimedia

Audio
Philip Graitcer

This month, on beaches up and down the U.S. East Coast, tens of thousands of newly-hatched loggerhead sea turtles are emerging from the sand and crawling into the Atlantic. Very few of these baby turtles will survive, but a hospital in Georgia is trying to improve their chances.

Jekyll Island, Georgia, is best known as a summer vacation spot. But it’s also an important rehabilitation destination for hundreds of sick or injured sea turtles that wash up on Atlantic coast beaches each year.

“Twenty percent of the cases are boat strike-related injuries," says Terry Norton, a veterinarian who is director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. "We get fishing line and fishhook-related injuries. There’s a disease called fibropapilloma, caused by the herpes virus, that can cause tumors on the skin. We get some real debilitated turtles.”

This loggerhead turtle is missing a flipper due to a shark injury.
This loggerhead turtle is missing a flipper due to a shark injury.

Many have survived encounters with predators like sharks that can bite off a turtle’s flipper or crack its shell.

The operating room at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center looks like one you’d see at a major medical center for humans.

There are bright surgical lights, stainless steel tables and an x-ray machine. The doctors and nurses wear blue surgical scrubs. This morning, Norton is treating Ziva, a 68-kilo female loggerhead turtle.

“This is a turtle with a boat strike injury to the head and to her shell," he says. "She actually had a little abscess in the skull. These little Velcro patches are for putting weights because she floats asymmetrically so that helps her dive a little better and get around a little better.”

Norton estimates that Ziva is 10-to-12 years old, which is young for a turtle. He says rehabilitating these injured or sick juveniles is vital to maintaining the worldwide sea turtle population.

“They become sexually mature at 35 years of age. That makes it really significant when there’s adult mortality. It took a lot of turtles to reach that point. It takes about 4,000 hatchlings and eggs to get to that one animal, so all these mature animals are very important to the population.”

Unfortunately, Ziva’s injuries are so extensive that she’ll never recover enough to be released back into the ocean. Instead, she’ll go to an aquarium to become a turtle ambassador as part of an educational exhibit.

Duval, a female loggerhead turtle, is measured by staff at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Duval, a female loggerhead turtle, is measured by staff at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Since sea turtles are found worldwide, Norton’s staff works with conservation groups in India, Pakistan, Costa Rica and St. Kitts, teaching them how to protect and care for injured turtles.

Ten of thousands of the tourists who visit Jekyll Island each year come to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to learn about the life cycle of turtles.

A highlight of their visit is the rehabilitation pavilion, where sea turtles, land turtles and even alligators can be seen recovering after their treatments.

“Out here they are all in quarantine areas…so since we are similar to a hospital setting, we try to keep as much under control as we can," says David Zailo, one of the center’s guides. "By separating the animals from one another, it’s easier to treat them. It’s easier to mark down what they feed and it's easier to mark down their progress as they’re healing.”

Visitors who really want to get close to turtles can join the center’s staff for an early morning turtle walk on a nearby protected stretch of beach.

Earlier this summer, dozens of female loggerheads - each about one meter in diameter - lumbered out of the ocean, dug nests in the sand and laid hundreds of eggs.

Now, those eggs are hatching and a lucky few visitors will get to see the baby loggerheads crawl across the beach and into the ocean, to begin their perilous journey to adulthood.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs