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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid