Rescued Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle gets eye exams

Did you know there are veterinarians right here in Mississippi specially trained to conduct eye exams on sea turtles?

Some of these veterinarians made the trek from Starkville to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies to check on the status of those cold-stunned rare Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles rescued from the waters of the northeast several weeks ago.

Veterinary Ophthalmologist Caroline Betbeze said, “I’m just like an eye doctor for animals.”

On this day, MSU Veterinary Ophthalmologist Caroline Betbeze is assessing Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, the surviving 17 of 20 rare sea turtles brought here several weeks ago to the IMMS after being rescued from their venture into critically cold waters in the northeast. “It got too cold, and most of the time when that happens, they are not blinking, and they’re not closing their eyes like they should, and they can have a lot of exposure issues to the environment. They often times can get eye abnormalities after getting cold-stunned, so we are looking for things like corneal ulcers. We usually treat them with antibiotics. Most times they heal with time. It just happens because they are in that water for a while, so we can rehabilitate them.”

And there was a little snapping going on. “This one seems to be great. His eyes look really good. He doesn’t have any lesions or any kind of scar tissue or anything like that. He should be able to see well and be released.”

Data gathered here will be used for both teaching and study purposes by both IMMS and MSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “We don’t know that much. There are only a few articles out in our literature about them so anything we can gather, could be helpful to help future turtles.”

Aquatic Veterinary Specialist Stephen Reichley said, “It’s great with IMMS. They are the premiere stranding response in the area, so it’s fantastic to be able to partner with them and to have access to these stranded turtles, and that allows all the veterinarians and veterinary specialists to put that data together, and look at the big picture and look at some of the issues facing the species.”

But things are looking pretty good for these hard-shelled survivors. “They are not necessarily out of the woods yet, although I think they are feeling a lot better these days. They were pretty active for their exam.”

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