Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Patient Updates July 12, 2011

Hello All!

Pokey peeking out from the newspapers she's hiding under.
We had a new patient yesterday brought to us by the Byrnes family. They found a box turtle out on the trail that had been hit by a car leaving its top shell and connecting bones with the bottom shell, pretty shattered. We also found the turtle had insect larvae that had to be removed. After a long process of cleaning the wounds, removing larvae, and resetting the shell, "Pokie" was really worn out. We put her in a tank and let her rest over night. Today, we soaked her in water and she drank a lot. This is always a good sign, though sometimes we get peed on later in an effort by the turtle to scare us away. Doesn't work! We are steadfast in our commitment to get these guys feeling better! 

There were no more signs of larvae today, so continued with cleaning the wounded areas and piecing the shell back together. Pokie was resting when we left here today.
The back side of Lizzy. She likes Max's old hidey-hut.  

Lizzy had a good day today as well. We cleaned her up a bit with a soft toothbrush to removed some of the skin layers that had been accumulating. Turtles living in aquatic environments often have other organisms that help to keep their shell clean and any dead skin sloughed off. We also noticed that Lizzy hasn't been using her right hind leg, so we started doing physical therapy with her today to help keep the leg active and usable. She was full of spite and vinegar when we were through, though really patient during the process. Again, we like to see attitude in these guys; it means they still have the will to fight and to show us who's boss. We let Lizzy think we scared.
Bailey back in her cage.

Bailey is doing well too. Her leg stump looks like it is healing nicely. She's drinking plenty of water and we're trying to find something that will whet her appetite. Injured turtles often don't eat for a while after a serious injury. They use their body fat for food and concentrate their energies on healing from their wounds.

Max heading back home.
And Max . . . well Max is free!!!!! We turned him loose at the nearest water body we could find near the location where Chris found him. He was clamoring around in his tub as we drove him to the release site. When we got there, I thought he was going to jump out of the tub! I set him on the ground and he sat there for a few seconds to get his bearings. We shooed him towards the water and off he went like a bullet -- just dove into the water. Then up he came for a breath of air and off he went into deeper waters. It's a great sight when you can take them back to where they belong.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July 7 Patient Updates

Hello All,

Here are some status updates from the lab and the Halfway House.

Here's Addie. She's recovering from an encounter with a mower. She's doing quite well.

This is Annie. She also had an encounter with a mower and is doing much, much better. She's hiding out because it's soooo hot out.

This is Marti. She was missing a leg when she first came to us. We worked with her to teach her how to flip back over from a back position in case she ever needs that trick when she gets released. She's doing great, but trying to avoid the wasps at the moment.

I got stung when I tried to pick her up. Eric took care of the wasps for us. We don't want to get stung anymore and we certainly don't want the turtles to get stung.

Mynose is another turtle that met with a mower blade. I think she'll be heading home soon!

Sheldon is one of our favorites. What a personality! The hole in his shell has mended nicely and he's just about ready to head back to his native lands. We'll miss him, but we know he's better off there.

This is Bailey (named by Arden). She is missing a rear leg, but seems to be doing well. She has been drinking copious amounts of water and seems to like her new digs.

Lizzy is still one of our most critical patients as she has damage to both sides of her upper shell (the carapace) and a lot of damage to her lower shell (the plastron). She has plenty of attitude though, and that tells me she's still in the fight. As long as she's willing to hang in there, we're going to give her everything we can! 

This is Max. He was brought to us by Chris and his wife, but my nephew, Jared, says his name is "Max." Max only has one small area that we're working on. As soon as it's healed, he's going home. He's eating well and is quite active.

So there you have it. The latest news on all of the patients to date. We'll be pretty busy over the next few weeks getting ready to go to the TSA conference, working in the field and the lab, and doing all the stuff that we do to keep these guys healthy and happy.

Hope everyone is having a great summer!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Turtle Heroes and Turtle Whisperers

This is what it's all about: rescuing turtles and releasing them back to their natural environment when they are healthy once again. We know that with a little bit of time and a little bit of care, we can return a number of these turtles back to their point of capture (or as close as we can get) so that they can continue to make contributions to their native populations and the biodiversity of their ecosystem. Some will be with us for a few weeks and some for a year or more while they recuperate from illness or injuries. 

Today we released two turtles, one has been in the Turtle Research and Rescue Lab for more than a year. I found him in April 2010 on another part of SIUE campus. He only had one eye, the other one was missing from an old injury, but this real problem now was that his tail had been amputated. His rear end was totally encrusted with blood and feces. I tried to clean him up, but decided to take him to the vet to get professional care. Dr. C. S. took great care of him, but said that unless the turtle could eventually evacuate cleanly, it may be better to put him down. The odds of him getting a bad infection and dying a slow, painful death in his native habitat were quite high. 

Black Beard showing his best side.
But I decided to take a chance on him knowing I could always resort to euthanasia if there were signs of infection or constant pain (trust me, turtles feel pain!). We named him Black Beard and started a treatment plan to give his wounds time to heal. Nearly three months later, he was well enough to go to the Halfway House. In October of 2010, we attached a transmitter and released him so we could track his progress and make sure he remained healthy. Sarjana tracked him over the winter along with four other turtles. When he came out of hibernation, Sarjana, with help from Eric, John and Shaun, found him and brought him back into the lab. He looked great! We continued to monitor his progress until the batteries in all of the transmitters started to die. Each transmitter costs $150 and only lasts for approximately nine months, so the next time Sarjana was able to find him, she brought him to the Halfway House so we could remove the transmitter and return him to where I had found him last year.

Black Beard returned back to his home.
That's what Shaun and I did today. We hiked back into the woods and replaced Black Beard in the spot where I originally found him. He was super eager to get home and a couple of times nearly climbed out of the cloth bag Shaun was carrying him in. Once we got to the spot, Shaun placed him down in the stand of horsetail. After more than a year of being away, he knew he was home.

Shaun releasing the painted turtle, Larry.
Larry, the painted turtle, back in a natural area.
The other release was the painted turtle brought to us by Rachel. We took Larry to the nearest water body near where he was discovered after he was hit by a car. Shaun placed him in the water and said he began eating right away. Within a few moments, he disappeared into deeper regions and was safely back home. 

Two releases. It's a slow process, but well-worth it!

I can't say enough about all the students who have made this possible. They go out each and every day, rain or shine, without fail to check nearly 40 traps, check in on the turtles at the Halfway House, mow the grass , process new and recaptured turtles, and assist with cleaning cages, tanks and floors in the lab, log data sheets and much, much more. The heat and humidity can be nearly intolerable. They deal with mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, wasp stings and poison ivy. They work with integrity and compassion and a level of commitment that can't be bought with grades, stipends, or cold cash. They are working in the trenches to ensure that your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren know first-hand what a turtle is. Not simply because they've seen it in a museum or zoo, but these future generations  understand how vital it is to protect biodiversity, species richness and species abundance. In all that they do every day,

They never complain. 

They never hesitate to pitch in and cover for one another. 

They always rise above and complete their work.

And for everything that they do, they have my deep appreciation, my admiration, and the well-deserved titles of Turtle Heroes and Turtle Whisperers. You've met some of them here already. They include Chirag, Sarjana, Eric, John, Shaun, Heidi and Lauren. Without their many, many hours spent in the lab and in the field, this work would not be possible.

Kudos Turtle Whisperers!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Patient and Patient Updates

Hello All!

We have a new patient in today. A box turtle that has lost a leg. Many thanks to Carly who stopped and picked this little up. The wound area is very sensitive, but she's doing well this evening and settling into her temporary home. She looks to be four or five years old, and has beautiful coloring.
Lizzy is doing well, though she's having quite a battle with her injuries. Keep sending good thoughts her way, she needs a lot of positive energy to help heal these wounds. That being said, she still gives me a "do not disturb" hiss when I first start working on her, but she is such a good patient and lets me do what needs to be done.

The other red-eared slider brought in by Chris is healing nicely. She is quite active and moves around her aquarium quite a bit. I"m hoping she can go home within the next two weeks.

All of the patients out at the Halfway House are doing well and swimming nearly each time one of us goes out there. More turtle releases will be taking place over the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted as the occur.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lauren's Turtle

It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Lauren's red-eared slider died overnight. She had some very serious injuries including damage along her spine. While it's sad to see her let go, we can find comfort in the fact that she is no longer suffering. Many thanks to Lauren and her friend who rescued this turtle. Without your efforts, she didn't have a chance.

The other turtles are doing OK. However, the passing of Lauren's turtle is a reminder that the most we can do sometimes is to provide a safe, quiet environment for these turtles to begin healing. We never know when the battle to too large. Keep sending your get-well wishes to the other turtles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22 Patient Updates

Hello All!

Another red-eared slider was added to our patient list today. Thanks to Lauren's friend who kindly stopped to grab this one. Unfortunately, and is so often the case, the turtle was hit before it could be safely removed from the road. Fingers crossed that this one will hang in there.

Chris' red-eared slider actually tried to give me a mean face today. This is a good thing! She still has a way to go, but having attitude can bring these guys a long way.

Larry will be going home this week! YAY! 

Lizzy is still hanging in there and has been more and more active with each day. She has a long, long way to go, but seeing a turtle become more active and sure of itself is the first step to recovery.

Thanks for all your thoughts and well-wishes!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Patient Update June 14

Just a quick note to update everyone on our patients.

I was out at the halfway house yesterday and everyone looks great. I took some fruit out and they all enjoyed a little treat. Sheldon was swimming in the pool and came rushing over when he saw me. He teetered for a few seconds on the edge of the pool, but was eventually able to hoist himself over and go for one of his favorites: banana! Addie and Mynose were equally happy with banana and cantaloupe. Annie was hiding in the bushes, but quickly came out when she saw the banana.

The other patients in the lab include Larry, Lizzie and the red-eared slider. Larry still looks like a champ. The red-eared slider looks well, though she had a huge crack in her shell, so we're still cautiously optimistic about her recovery. 

Lizzy is our real concern right now. She was somewhat non-responsive at first today, but once her cage was cleaned out and she was back in her tank, she was a little more active. She's suffered some severe injuries and we really need your best wishes for her speedy recovery.

More later!