NC State’s Vet School performed skull surgery on an endangered sea turtle last Thursday, once again underpinning the excellence that we have come to expect from their organization. Holden III, the name of the rescued sea turtle, was found around Topsail, NC with a massive skull injury, likely caused by a boat’s propeller. The turtle was immediately taken to a specialized sea turtle clinic, then to NC State for intensive surgery.
What makes this story interesting, to those of us not as familiar with veterinarian practices, is the level of complexity involved in working with these animals. Pet owners will say they are beloved creatures and others will say “it’s just a turtle”, but the difficulty it takes to operate on an animal is comparable to working on a human.
The surgery lasted 90 minutes and included an ophthalmologist, anesthesiologist, radiologist and several lab assistants. They surrounded the table that held the 16-inch green turtle, whose brain is about as big around as a penny.
The biggest question for the pragmatist is why dump so much effort into saving sea turtles. After all, it’s “just one turtle”. As Dr. Greg Lewbart said in an article by the Washington Post, the hope is that surgeries such as these can help to characterize future turtle injuries and how to treat them. The task seems a little more important when you consider that…
In a 2004 Green Turtle Assessment , the Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) of the IUCNclassified green turtles as endangered globally. Analyses of historic and recent abundance information by the MTSG indicates that extensive population declines have occurred in all major ocean basins over approximately the past 100-150 years. The MTSG analyzed population trends at 32 index nesting sites around the world and found a 48-65% decline in the number of mature females nesting annually over the past 100-150 years. (link)
In this case, it appears NC State did it’s part to help one more of these endangered animals get back to it’s feet and is doing it’s part to do more than just talk about being environmentally friendly… they’re actually doing something about it.