Meet the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital Patients

Meet the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital Patients

sea turtle hospital
The image above is a mural that was hung above George’s tank at the Sea Turtle Hospital. George is a critically injured loggerhead patient who is being treated for fractured upper and lower jaws after being hit by a boat. She is also being treated for a dislocated radius in the wrist region of her left front flipper, and various bone fractures. I think this mural gives her hope, and so do all of the visitors who come to see her and cheer her on for a speedy recovery 🙂


Gumby, Dewees, Charlie, George, Murray, Hook, Bulls Bay, and Merigo are the eight sea turtles who are current patients at the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital—each and every one of them with their own tales of survival.

I met these brave souls on a recent visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital, where I was fortunate enough to interview Kelly Thorvalson, the Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager, about the South Carolina Aquarium’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts for sick and injured sea turtles. If you missed Part I of this interview, where we talked about the Sea Turtle Hospital operations and mission, click here to read it.

Meet some of the Sea Turtle Hospital Patients:

Gumby: You might be wondering, “How did this turtle get her quirky name?” Well that was the first question that popped into my head as I walked by this, surprisingly small, loggerhead’s tank.

Kelly explained that when Gumby was found on the beachfront of Kiawah Island, she was lethargic and overweight (it is extremely uncommon to see an animal that is overweight in the wild since animals only hunt what they need to survive). After performing a series of tests and X-rays, results showed that Gumby was anemic and had a severe case of metabolic bone disease. Although it is just speculation, the Sea Turtle Hospital staff believes that Gumby may have been kept in captivity as a hatchling with a poor diet and no UV light. When a reptile is deprived of UV light, bone growth and development is hindered, which can result in metabolic bone disease.

conservation initiatives


Charleston aquarium

Gumby performing some water aerobics for the camera!

SC Aquarium

When Gumby was found on the Kiawah Island shore and taken to the Sea Turtle Hospital, she could barely move for months. But with some rigorous therapy, a new and healthy diet, and love and support from the community and the Sea Turtle Hospital staff, Gumby is now on her way to recovery. Today, after being a patient at the Sea Turtle Hospital for more than a year, Gumby is feisty as she swims along, showing off for the camera (at least that was my impression!).

Murray: As the newest patient to the Sea Turtle Hospital, admitted on August 1, 2012, Murray is a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle who was found off the coast of Edisto in South Carolina.

As one of the Sea Turtle Hospital’s smallest sea turtles, Murray was thin and weighed 4.6 lbs when he was brought into the Sea Turtle Hospital after swallowing a fisherman’s hook. When the fisherman was unable to retrieve the hook he called the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) for assistance. SCDNR arrived at the scene and transported Murray to the Sea Turtle Hospital for a physical exam and to have the hook removed from his esophagus. To remove the hook, veterinarian Dr. Boylan sedated Murray and was able to remove the barbed hook non-surgically.

sea turtle rescue

Murray coming up to say hello!

sea turtle conservation

Kelly giving me a detailed description of Murray's injuries and treatment plan

sea turtle hospital

An X-ray of Murray prior to treatment (see the hook in his esophagus?)

Luckily, Murray is on his way to a speedy recovery (which means you’ll have to visit the Sea Turtle Hospital soon to catch a glimpse of him before he’s release back into the wild—he’s well worth the visit!).

Charlie: The largest of the sea turtles currently being treated in the Sea Turtle Hospital is Charlie. This 150-pound male loggerhead was caught during a routine trawl survey by the SCDNR to check population and health status of sea turtles in the wild. Unfortunately, there was a not-so-gentle stingray caught in the net and its barb pierced through Charlie’s front left flipper and neck. Because the wounds were deep and stingrays release a toxin from their barbs, Charlie was transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital for medical treatment.

sea turtle rescue

Charlie's story

Upon arrival to the Sea Turtle Hospital, Charlie’s wounds were cleaned and examined and he was given pain medication, as well as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

One of the most interesting things about Charlie is that he doesn’t like to eat fish. He’s more of a shellfish kind of guy, as he’ll only eat crabs!

Click here to learn more about the other sea turtle patients currently admitted to the Sea Turtle Hospital.


How to Help the Aquarium Directly:

There are dozens of things you can do to support the Sea Turtle Hospital’s initiative and help the plight of the sea turtle. The first thing you can do is visit the South Carolina Aquarium and tour the Sea Turtle Hospital on an educational walk through. Here, you’ll be able to peer into all of the patients’ tanks, interact with the Sea Turtle Hospital staff and ask any questions you might have about sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, as well as learn about common hazards that sea turtles face today.

SC Aquarium

A shot of part of the Sea Turtle Hospital

The education station in the Sea Turtle Hospital

Because the South Carolina Aquarium is a non-profit organization, donations are crucial for its ongoing operations. You can help support the Sea Turtle Rescue Program by making donations in the form of cash or check, which will help pay for necessary treatments, medicines, and habitat needs.

And if you ever see an injured or stranded sea turtle, call the SC Department of Natural Resources hotline immediately at 1.800.922.5431. Timeliness is everything when you find a sea turtle floating in the water or washed up on shore, as many times they are hanging on to their final hours of life.

The Sea Turtle Hospital also allows individuals, as well as school classes, to adopt stranded sea turtles! Click here to learn more about adopting injured and sick sea turtles.

Some other ways you can help protect sea turtles is by . . .

  • Supporting organizations, like the South Carolina Aquarium through donations and volunteering.
  • Minimizing artificial light usage on the beach.
  • Properly disposing of plastics, balloons, and any other non-biodegradable material.

How to Help Conserve Wildlife & The Environment Overall:

Some of the best ways to help conserve the environment include buying and eating locally, and staying true to the three R’s of conservation: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Also, because helium balloons are one of the most hazardous materials for wildlife, we suggest purchasing reusable decorations that can’t float away, such as paper lanterns. In fact, on all of the Charleston Harbor Tours private charters and private dinner cruises, we do not allow the use of balloons for this specific reason.

Helium balloons on display to illustrate their affects on the wildlife

And wherever you are, whether on land or on the water, always keep your eyes out for injured wildlife, without entering or disrupting their natural habitats.

For more ways on how to help conserve wildlife and the environment overall, view our past blog post on 8 Ways to Help Conserve the Environment & Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Lessons from Charleston.

Help spread the word about the plight of the sea turtle by sharing this post with your followers on Twitter and your friends on Facebook.

Visit the South Carolina Aquarium website at

More about the Sea Turtle Hospital: The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program is dedicated to rehabilitating sick and injured sea turtles from the coast of South Carolina and beyond. The program supports the Aquarium’s conservation mission not only through sea turtle rehabilitation, but award-winning programs and exhibitory used to educate the public about the threats sea turtles face and actions that can be taken to help. Outreach programs to schools, businesses, clubs, and festivals throughout the state of South Carolina also promote valuable lessons in sea turtle conservation, protection, and education.

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