Brevard Zoo Attempts to Help Save Green Sea Turtle ‘Rock-Sea’ Found at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

By  //  September 28, 2021

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Unfortunately, two days after intake, Rock-Sea succumbed to her ailments

One hundred sick or injured green sea turtles have come for treatment at Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center this year. To put that in perspective, Brevard Zoo has never taken in over 100 patients—no matter the species—in any given year. And it’s only September. (Brevard Zoo image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – One hundred sick or injured green sea turtles have come for treatment at Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center this year. To put that in perspective, Brevard Zoo has never taken in over 100 patients—no matter the species—in any given year. And it’s only September.

Brevard Zoo’s 100th patient came with a unique story. Although the ending is not what Brevard Zoo had hoped for, they want to share how several organizations within our community stepped up to help Rock-Sea.

On the morning of September 15, an adult green sea turtle was found at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station by Space Launch Delta 45, Civil Engineering Squadron, Environmental Conservation Element (activities conducted under permit number MTP#075) during seasonal sea turtle nest surveys.

Due to the size of the marine reptile, multiple members of the group helped lift and secure the sea turtle to a trailer using a sling and boat cushions. Under the authorization of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the group then transported the patient to our Healing Center.

Upon arrival, Brevard Zoo’s team immediately noticed that the sea turtle—who weighed just under 250 pounds—appeared to have severe dystocia, which means that she had eggs but was unable to lay them.

Brevard Zoo’s veterinary team began normal intake procedures, which include a blood draw and radiographs.

A CT scan was determined to be necessary to find out if the eggs were impacted due to physical obstruction. Despite the regular and critical need for CT scans by our patients, the Healing Center does not have this machine onsite.

Brevard Zoo’s staff called Rockledge Regional Medical Center (RRMC), who graciously squeezed her in for an emergency CT scan just hours after the sea turtle’s arrival. She was named “Rock-Sea” by RRMC staff.

Rock-Sea was loaded onto a trailer after being found at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station last week. (Angy Chambers image)

While Rock-Sea was at RRMC, her bloodwork was rushed to Steward Reference Labs for processing. The bloodwork revealed that she was in renal failure as her kidneys were not working properly.

The CT scan was sent to Dr. Watson, DVM, MS, DACVR, owner of Veterinary Forensic Imaging Consultants, for expedited results.

Although a scan showed a malformation of the bottom of Rock-Sea’s spine, Dr. Watson didn’t believe the malformation or a neurological issue caused the egg impaction. It was also confirmed that there was no physical obstruction blocking the passage of her eggs.

Due to the associated risks, Brevard Zoo made the decision not to induce Rock-Sea while she was in renal failure and instead focused on giving her supportive care such as fluids to help her kidneys recover. Unfortunately, two days after intake, Rock-Sea succumbed to her ailments.

While this is not the outcome Brevard Zoo wanted, they are so grateful to our partners in the community for helping give Rock-Sea the best possible chance at recovery. As Brevard Zoo does with all their patients, they will learn from her story so that they can better care for sea turtles in the future.

– Brevard Zoo

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