VetCT is celebrating the anniversary of providing free access to its specialist services supporting the rehabilitation of rescued sea turtles around the world. Wildlife charities, zoos and clinics spanning five continents benefitted from the free advice from VetCT’s team of experts to help with the management of sick and injured sea turtle species.
The company, a world-leader in providing teleradiology, teleconsultancy and education services, includes a team of exotics experts to advise on sea turtle diagnostic imaging and management. To date, 12 organisations spanning North America, Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe have registered to use the free service, supporting the care of over 50 turtles, including loggerhead, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtle species.
Dr Max Polyak, lead veterinary surgeon at the Olive Ridley Project in the Maldives, shared the story of Shara, an adult female olive ridley found floating and unable to dive: “Shara had signs of pneumonia and an abnormal accumulation of gas in her lower intestinal tract due to plastic ingestion, identified with support from VetCT’s teleradiology report. This accumulation of gas was the underlying cause of her buoyancy disorder.
“With intensive medical management of her infection and after passing a considerable amount of plastic in her faeces she no longer had any gas in her intestinal tract and showed a significant improvement. We then continued to focus on her dive training using Targeted External Weight Therapy to correct the behavioural aspect of her buoyancy disorder and retrain her how to dive. Shara progressed well and after discontinuing her TEWT she continued to show normal diving behavior and was released on August 17th, 2023 with a satellite tag.”
Dr Terry Norton of The Turtle Hospital in Florida spoke about several cases, including Tiki, a juvenile green sea turtle found floating, weak, and debilitated. Blood work showed severe hypoglycemia, moderate anaemia, and increased plasma uric acid, BUN, sodium, and potassium. Physical examination revealed Tiki was thin, dehydrated, and multiple joints in both front flippers were enlarged.
Dr Norton says, “CT and radiographs submitted to VetCT revealed multifocal osteomyelitis. Faecal examination was positive for Caryospora, a significant coccidia species in green turtles. Blood culture was submitted and positive for Salmonella marina. Ceftazidime and ampicillin were started. With extensive supportive care and treatment over the next few months, Tiki gained weight and became stronger. Repeat blood culture and radiographs, again reported by VetCT, confirmed that the osteomyelitis and septicemia had resolved. Tiki was released on July 12, 2023.”
“We’re so grateful to the team at VetCT for providing their expert radiology reports, helping to guide the diagnosis and treatment of these turtles, and ultimately contributing to their successful management and release back into the wild.”
Dr Trevor Zachariah, a vet at Brevard Zoo in Florida, which carries permits to conduct sea turtle rehabilitation, has also had several turtles where VetCT’s support has helped to monitor response to treatment: “We had a green sea turtle called ‘LJ’, who had severe injuries presumed to be from a boat propeller blade. LJ had suffered full thickness carapacial fracture with coelomic membrane exposure and entrapped lung tissue. We had managed the injuries for two months with vacuum-assisted closure, debridement, and bandage changes and performed a CT to check healing progress. The VetCT report was great, showing detailed annotations of fracture healing and remaining lung changes, guiding ongoing management and continued rehabilitation for LJ until his release in January. It’s great they’re providing free reports and advice that helps us to treat these amazing animals.”
VetCT’s global team of over 270 specialists and support staff chose sea turtles to be the company’s flagship species in 2022. In addition to providing veterinary support, the team have been raising awareness through hosting in person and online sea turtle talks, running company-wide events to reduce plastic pollution, and fundraising for Wildlife Vets International, a charity supporting conservation projects for sea turtles and other endangered species.
Dr Copper Aitken-Palmer, exotics specialist at VetCT who helped to set up the sea turtle initiative, says, “We are delighted to be working with partners globally to provide free access to our services for rescued sea turtles. Sustainability is a guiding principle in all we do at VetCT, and supporting the rehabilitation and release of these keystone marine species supports the health of delicate marine ecosystems for decades to come. Following the stories of these animals to final release is incredibly rewarding.”
Organisations, clinics and charities wishing to access free services for rescued sea turtles should visit can register by emailing email@example.com.