Disabled and severely injured sea turtles have benefitted from CT scans that have helped inform diagnosis, following a collaboration between the RVC and a sea park in Dorset. 

Florida Keys turtle.
A turtle rescued from Florida Keys.

Turtles in Florida Keys – a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida – can suffer chronic spinal injuries following collisions with boats, with some losing their ability to dive without the aid of special weights.

Six years ago, Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park adopted five of the victims. When one of them, called Ali, became unwell, consultant vet Sue Thornton liaised with the RVC imaging team to organise a CT scan.

The results confirmed Ali was suffering progressive and untreatable bone disease and she was euthanised.

Potential benefits

However, the park’s visit alerted RVC student Jen Oraze to the potential benefits of CT scans for other collision victims, which led to a “pioneering” collaboration between the two organisations – and it wasn’t long before other disabled turtles were soon arriving at the RVC to use the scanning facilities.

Jen Oraze CT scanner.
RVC student Jen Oraze with one of the sea turtle’s in the CT scanner.

When Cracker, from Sea Life Blankenberge in Belgium, for example, required a scan, the distance was not a problem – she was simply scanned near her home and the data sent to the RVC for analysis.

Providing more insight

Another visitor was green turtle Gulliver, who travelled to the RVC from Sea Life Brighton for a scan to diagnose a suspected soft shell.

Ms Oraze said: “The data gathered from the scans and neurological examinations will hopefully provide more insight into the nature and extent of these turtles’ disabilities.

“What I learn should help Sea Life to improve the quality of care it provides, and may also enable the team in Florida to more accurately diagnose the problems newly rescued collision victims suffer.”


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