A rare rescue was made by wildlife officials for a 500-pound leatherback sea turtle that was stranded on a remote beach in South Carolina.
Jenna Cormany, a wildlife biologist with the state’s Department of Natural Resources, said the sick turtle is the first-ever living turtle to be recovered in the state and is one of only a handful ever treated.
The endangered turtle, weighing in at 230 kg, was treated at a South Carolina aquarium.
“I can hardly believe it. They don’t strand alive very often,” said Kelly Thorvalson, manager of the Sea Turtle Rescue Program at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.
Wildlife officials saw the animal on Saturday stranded on a 3.5 mile long barrier near Georgetown, S.C. Cormany said it took five state officials nearly four hours to retrieve the reptile from the beach where it was taken for an hour-and-a-half drive to the aquarium.
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She explained that the rescue was “logistically difficult” because “we had a turtle stretcher on a board and we all did our best to lift it. It was very lethargic and sick looking.”
The turtle, who has since been named Yawkey by aquarium staff, say it’s being treated for a possible intestinal blockage and is improving after having its fluids and low blood sugar corrected.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, leatherbacks are the largest turtle in the world and are the only sea turtles without a hard shell. They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds as adults.
It’s believed that Yawkey is a young female and may have eaten debris such as a plastic bag she mistook for a jellyfish.
Thorvalson said that leatherbacks do poorly in captivity, so Yawkey will be released in a few days after treatment.