Cadet is a juvenile green sea turtle. S/he was found stranded on Cumberland Island in Georgia. There is something that Cadet is missing. S/he is missing his/her front, right flipper! Luckily for Cadet, s/he was doing fairly well in the wild because when we got him/her the flipper wound was almost completely healed. The missing flipper, however, is probably not the reason Cadet stranded. S/he was slightly cold, around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, lethargic, and had a very low blood glucose level. Cadet did not fit the criteria of being cold stunned, having a body temperature below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. S/he also did not show signs of debilitated turtle syndrome, where s/he would have been extremely lethargic, emaciated (thin) and overloaded with epibiota such as barnacles. The low glucose level gave some clues that Cadet probably missed a few meals and was lacking the energy to act normal and stay healthy, most likely leading him/her to strand.
Luckily, treating Cadet has gone smoothly. His/her water temp was slowly raised about 5 degrees per day throughout a few days until it was up to about 75 degrees, warm and perfect for healing sick and injured turtles. We also have been checking on his/her amputation site to ensure that it is continuing to heal and that there are no signs of infection or other issues. Now, Cadet is swimming, diving, and eating great. S/he is anemic though, has a low concentration of red blood cells, but the presence of new red blood cells in his/her blood is a sign that s/he is recovering now.
At the center we get one big question about Cadet, as well as other sea turtles missing limbs. Can a turtle missing a flipper be released? The answer is YES! Turtles in the wild are sometimes found missing flippers. Although we do not know how Cadet lost his/her flipper it would not be uncommon for a turtle to lose one to a predator such as a shark or sometimes even losing a limb due to having monofilament fishing line wrapped around it, cutting off circulation and essentially starving the limb of nutrients and oxygen. Luckily Cadet is a strong swimmer and will be ready for release when his/her anemia is resolved and when coastal water temperatures are warmer.
-Andrew Nystedt AmeriCorps Husbandry Member