Since 2007, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center has served as Georgia’s premier sea turtle rehabilitation and education facility, welcoming visitors from near and far to gain a stronger understanding of the threats often facing this reluctant species.
Take a deep dive into the stories of 15 notable patients that have been received at the Georgia Sea Turtle over the past 15 years…
Georgia was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s first patient. This loggerhead sea turtle was struck by a boat propeller, which badly damaged her carapace (top shell), head, and left front flipper. Despite several medical treatments to save her life, due to the severity of her injuries, Georgia was humanely euthanized. Although she did not survive, we learned a great deal from her case. Georgia’s legacy lives on 15 years later, as we continue to work with other sea turtles affected by boat-propeller injuries and educate the public about sea turtle-friendly boating practices.
Griffin was an adult male loggerhead sea turtle that arrived debilitated (weak). He had chronic buoyancy (flotation) problems, meaning he could not properly dive in the water. After extensive diagnostic procedures and medical treatments, we suspected that Griffin might have suffered something like a stroke. Based on his rate of recovery and overall status, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize Griffin. This patient had a big impact on many people, and we wanted to honor his memory. Griffin’s ashes were used to make an artificial reef ball; this structure was placed in the ocean off the coast of Florida to help provide habitat for new coral reef formation.
Phantom arrived on July 30, 2009, with a severe head injury, no left eye and missing half the upper jaw. We initially thought these wounds were caused by a boat-propeller strike, but a couple days after Phantom arrived, we took x-rays and discovered part of a large fishhook embedded in the turtle’s neck. This led us to believe that someone had wounded the turtle in the process of cutting the fishing line and hook. The hook was removed during surgery and the neck eventually healed. We then started focusing on getting Phantom to eat. The patient showed interest in food but was unable to figure out how to eat while missing half the upper beak. After many creative attempts, Phantom learned to eat with the new disability. Phantom was successfully released on June 17, 2011, with a satellite transmitter to track the turtle’s movements in the wild.
Mahi was found in northern Florida after getting entangled in fishing line. The turtle swallowed some of the fishing line, which we removed during surgery. The rest of the fishing line was wrapped so tightly around the front right flipper that it cut off circulation and we had to amputate the limb. Thankfully, Mahi was a fighter and had many supporters. Mahi still holds the record for being the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s most adopted patient! After Mahi’s amputation site healed, we wanted to ensure the turtle could swim in deep water before release. We transferred Mahi to Gulf World Marine Park where they determined the turtle would do well in the wild. Mahi was released on July 7, 2015.
Tiburon is one of the few adult male loggerhead sea turtles that has received care at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. He arrived on July 8, 2013, with a condition called debilitation. Debilitated loggerheads are often weak, underweight, anemic (low red blood cell count), and have lots of living organisms on their shells. Tiburon recovered from the condition and was successfully released on September 6, 2013.
Tsunami arrived to the GSTC on July 18, 2017, with injuries from a boat propeller. The propeller fractured part of the turtle’s shell and jaw. We helped the shell injuries heal, but Tsunami’s jaw was clenched shut for several weeks. The turtle received physical therapy, and even acupuncture treatments to regain use of her jaw! Tsunami regained about 60% of the range-of-motion in her jaw but requires regular physical therapy to maintain her ability to eat. For this reason, we determined Tsunami would not survive in the wild if released. A blood test confirmed that Tsunami is a girl. She was transferred to the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station in June 2020, where she lives today.
Carlin arrived on August 3, 2017, as a straggler hatchling (unable to make it out of the nest on its own). This little turtle hatched on Jekyll Island from Nest #23 in 2017. Carlin’s mom, named Cinco, faithfully nests on Jekyll Island every few years. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s (GSTC) Patrol Team found Carlin still inside the nest after it hatched. Being weaker than the other turtles in the nest, Carlin came to the GSTC for care. We helped this turtle grow strong. After several months in captivity, Carlin recovered and was released in Spring 2019 with the help of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
Glitter Mittens arrived on June 30, 2019, with severe head injuries from a boat propeller. After the skull fractures were stabilized, we performed surgery to remove the turtle’s out-of-socket left eye. Glitter Mittens was slow to wake up from the eye-removal surgery and we had to breathe for the turtle for nearly 24 hours. The small claws on Glitter Mittens’ front flippers kept catching and dislodging the breathing tube in the turtle’s throat. To help prevent pulling on the breathing tube, staff applied sparkly green vet wrap to the patient’s front flippers, looking like glittery mittens. The dedicated staff tending to the turtle in the middle of the night said that if this patient survived, it would be named Glitter Mittens. The turtle survived and made a full recovery! We released Glitter Mittens on April 21, 2020.
Swiss arrived on November 25, 2019, as a cold-stunned (hypothermic) sea turtle from Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts. This juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was initially taken to the New England Aquarium but soon after got transferred to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center by airplane thanks to the non-profit organization Turtles Fly Too. We slowly re-warmed the turtle to proper body temperature. Swiss was also diagnosed with pneumonia and had lost a lot of bone and keratin on the carapace (top shell). Swiss received antibiotics to help recover from pneumonia. We kept the wounds clean and fed the turtle high-quality, nutritious seafood. Swiss was successfully rehabilitated and released on May 5, 2020.
Ruck arrived on May 27, 2020, with severe injuries to the neck from a predator attack. This patient was missing approximately one-third of the neck upon arrival and lost a lot of blood from the wound. Ruck underwent two blood transfusions as part of treatment. The wound healed well, but the turtle had no appetite for several weeks. When Ruck’s appetite finally returned, the turtle was very picky and only liked shrimp. To ensure a well-balanced diet, we hid minced fish and crab in pieces of shrimp. We eventually gave the patient some tough love and removed shrimp from the diet. This worked – Ruck regained a normal appetite for food and fully recovered. Ruck was released on May 11, 2021.
Coco was a juvenile green sea turtle that arrived on July 16, 2020, with boat-strike fractures to the top shell and skull. Coco also arrived with a missing a rear flipper, likely due to a predator attack when the turtle was younger. The missing flipper injury had already fully healed on its own, proving that Coco was a survivor. We stabilized Coco’s broken bones and the turtle made a full recovery! On October 19, 2021, Coco was released.
Tano arrived on July 18, 2020, after being caught on a fishhook on Jekyll Island’s Glory Beach. Upon arrival, we x-rayed the turtle and found more than one fishhook in the turtle’s body. This turtle had swallowed five fishhooks over time! We removed some hooks when the turtle arrived, but the hooks farther down the turtle’s throat required surgery to remove. Tano recovered from surgery, and we successfully released this turtle on August 18, 2020.
Frontera arrived in critical condition on March 14, 2021, after being caught in a dredge (similar to an underwater vacuum that removes sand and dirt from the ocean floor). Frontera had several bad fractures to the shell, and the eyes were swollen shut from being sandblasted. We stabilized the fractures with a cast-like material. We treated the eyes with the turtle’s own plasma; to do this, we drew blood from Frontera, separated out the plasma, and used that as eye drops. Plasma has many healing properties and Frontera’s vision returned. About two weeks after arrival, Frontera also passed part of a pink balloon that the turtle must have eaten in the ocean. Frontera made a much quicker recovery than we expected and was successfully released on August 24, 2021.
This adult female loggerhead sea turtle arrived on May 28, 2021, with crushing injuries to the rostrum (nose), likely caused by a boat-propeller strike. She was missing part of her beak and was lethargic for several months. Additionally, she did not eat from the time she arrived in May 2021 until late September 2021. Genie received a CT exam to rule out brain damage, IV nutrition, pain medications, and antibiotics. She made a full recovery and was released on April 15, 2022.
This juvenile loggerhead sea turtle is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s 1,000th sea turtle patient since the hospital opened in 2007! Anni, short for “Anniversary,” arrived debilitated (weak), with lots of living organisms on the shell, and anemic (low red blood cell count). We also noticed Anni had a flipper tag, indicating that the turtle had previously been captured. A quick investigation told us that Anni was tagged in 2020, by a research team in Florida that caught the then-healthy turtle as it was swimming in the water. Anni’s condition has improved from critical to stable and improving. We hope Anni can make a full recovery and one day be released!
To mark 15 years of lifesaving work, enter to win one of 15 new, customized bricks added to the Center's walkway, which is traveled by thousands of guests each year as they enter the facility.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is Georgia’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility. The Center offers the public a chance to learn about sea turtles and see rehabilitation in action with a host of interactive exhibits and experiences. Year-round indoor and outdoor programs are also available for guests of all ages.