Rescued Turtle on the Road to Recovery at Gumbo Limbo
Whitney Crowder and Caitlin Bovery
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Specialists Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
In our last issue, we introduced the story of an exceptionally fortunate sea turtle, “Sweet Baby Ray”, which was rescued by the Gumbo Limbo Na- ture Center Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility and the Florida Hawksbill Project at the National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation in December. “Sweet Baby Ray” has been receiving extensive treatments at Gumbo Limbo to try to save the flipper recovering from a fishing line entanglement.

Initial x-rays showed a severe fracture in the front left humerus from the fishing line entanglement and a deep laceration into the surrounding tissue. The first step in helping the flipper heal was to reduce the swelling in the flipper, so that surgery could eventually be done to repair the damage. Dr. Chadam prescribed the application of leeches, cold laser therapy, and edema massage to alleviate the swelling. Leeches have long been used in human and veterinary medicine to aid in wound care. The leeches remove excess blood in the tissue and more importantly, inject an anticoagulant to encourage blood flow through the flipper.
Radiograph of Ray’s front right shoulder, showing a severe fracture in the humerus bone caused by entanglement in monofilament fishing line.
Animals helping animals...
live leeches can safely and
effectively reduce swelling.
In combination with edema massage, a special type of massage designed to encourage fluid movement in the body to reduce swelling, the flipper began to improve. To further expedite the flipper’s healing process, cold laser therapy, or low level laser therapy, was applied daily to the flipper. This type of therapy uses infrared light to stimulate healing by increasing cell growth and can also reduce inflammation. After several weeks of therapy, “Sweet Baby Ray” was finally ready for surgery.

Surgery began with administering anesthesia and pain medication, taking an x-ray to assess the fracture, and cleaning the wound extensively. Dr. Chadam decided the flipper had the best chance of healing fully by placing it in a cast and reattaching the layers of muscle and skin with several layers of ne stiches.
Several hours later, “Sweet Baby Ray” awoke from surgery with a full cast on the front left ipper. Once the anesthesia wore off, the turtle returned to her rehab tank to recuperate. Unfortunately, wild animals do not know what a cast is and the turtle immediately tried to bite at her cast. Searching for a solution, Gumbo Limbo’s rehab team used some quick thinking and purchased a recovery cone used on dogs and cats. After careful observation, the rehabilitation staff determined that wearing the cone is the best way to keep her injured ipper secured. As a hawksbill sea turtle, she has a sharp, strong beak and could easily bite through the cast. “Sweet Baby Ray” is moni- tored closely daily in Gumbo Limbo’s intensive care. Although, it is still unclear if the ipper will heal fully, our rehabilitation staff looks forward to the day that she returns to the reef. “Sweet Baby Ray” is not visible to the public at this time, as she is easily startled and needs to rest, but you can visit Gumbo Limbo’s website for future updates.
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National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation
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