Loggerhead with paralyzed flipper to be treated at South Carolina Aquarium

One of the loggerhead’s rear flippers is half gone, and the other is curled in tight and apparently paralyzed. Neither move much. A chunk is missing from the carapace, or shell, above them — evidently clipped off by a boat propeller.

Still, the newest arrival at the sea turtle hospital swims on front flippers without struggling, feeds on live food and eventually might be able to go back to the wild.

The 75-pound loggerhead already has travelled a long way. The young turtle arrived Tuesday by Cessna aircraft, transported from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in New Jersey to the South Carolina Aquarium’s sea turtle rescue program.

The aquarium staff can give her physical therapy she couldn’t get at the New Jersey center, which is dedicated to mammals, not reptiles. And yes, physical therapy. Staff will attempt to coax out the curled-in flipper and coax both to paddle. Cold laser treatment also will be used for pain relief and healing. They have done this before successfully with paralyzed flippers.

The loggerhead isn’t sick, said Kelly Thorvalson, program manager. “She’s been surviving in the wild. She looks good.” But the turtle is thin and blood work shows a lack of protein, so hunting might have been an ordeal.

The loggerhead is a huge, long-lived sea turtle that crawls ashore in the spring and summer to lay eggs in the dunes. It is a threatened species, thought to be in gradual decline. Half the nests outside of Florida are laid in South Carolina, and the creature has become a beloved totem of the coast here, its nests and tiny hatchlings watched over by an army of volunteers.

This loggerhead’s air trip came courtesy of William Kindle, a board member of the private, non-profit New Jersey center.

The turtle was found this month at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Forked River, N.J.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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