5 min read

Vet Does Whatever It Takes To Fix Sea Turtle's Broken Flipper

This little green sea turtle and his friends are extremely lucky.

Recently over 2,000 members of his species washed ashore on North Carolina's beaches - and it's because they were feeling the brutal sting of the East Coast's winter chill. This turtle and two other special cases arrived at the Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital (TVRH) in Durham; they were saved and transported by volunteers from the North Carolina Aquariums system.

"In North Carolina, this was a very unusual year [weather-wise]," Sharon Zeigler, marketing director for TVRH in Durham, told The Dodo. Sea turtles typically can be found in shallow waters where their food source (plants) grow. Since North Carolina had a warm winter, followed by a cold spell, the sudden temperature drop rendered them incapable of swimming to warmer waters. As a result, the turtles remained stuck in shallow water and eventually washed ashore, Zeigler said.

There's a name for this phenomenon - cold-stunning.

"They become lethargic and unable to swim," Zeigler explained. "They eventually succumb to pneumonia and starvation and die if they aren't treated." The treatment plan utilized for cold-stunned turtles includes re-warming the cold-blooded reptiles, giving them antibiotics and force-feeding them until they're able to eat on their own.

One of the turtles admitted to TVRH was paralyzed in his rear flippers for reasons that couldn't be determined even after a CT scan.

Doctors are watching over the turtle to see if he recovers over time with supportive care. A second turtle had a penetrative wound through the shell that thankfully missed the spine.

The third turtle had a nasty tear on one of his flippers.

Luckily, this little guy with the flipper problem is in good hands.

Dr. Mike Grafinger, a surgeon at TVRH, has experience working with sea turtles, so volunteers reached out to the specifically hospital for the treatment of the three turtles in need.

WARNING: Graphic image below

Grafinger performed the surgery needed to stitch the turtle's torn flipper back together ...

... and now he'll be able to swim freely one day soon.

"The ultimate goal for all of these turtles is to be released back into the wild," Zeigler said. "You'll notice one picture on our Facebook page where there are multiple turtles in containers."

"Those animals have been treated successfully and if the weather cooperates on Monday, the coast guard ship will be taking them out to warmer waters and releasing them," she said.

With the right amount of TLC, the three turtles in TVRH's care will be joining their brethren in no time as well.