Nothing like a little cataract surgery before a swim off into the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, nothing much like it at all if you're a sea turtle.
Briar, a young adult female loggerhead, will be released Tuesday, after rehabilitation at the South Carolina Aquarium and the surgery, a rarity for a turtle.
Holding one rim of its shell on release will be Ann Cook, the Mount Pleasant veterinary ophthalmologist who donated the work and care. Holding the other will be Brett Weinheimer, the Pennsylvanian vacationer in Myrtle Beach who in May 2013 saw and stopped a group of people on the beach as they tried to push the emaciated, going-blind turtle back into the surf.
The cataract surgery was an aquarium first and one of only a few that staff could find had been performed on a sea turtle. Briar is being released despite the potential limits of eyesight after the surgery because loggerheads' prey tends to be slow moving or attached to something stationary, and because as a potential egg-laying female she can help restore the threatened population.
Her eyesight has improved to the point that in the rehabilitation tank she has been able to catch live crabs, said Kelly Thorvalson, aquarium sea turtle program rescue manager. The once-emaciated turtle now weighs 182 pounds.
"We're confident she's going to be fine. Hopefully she'll be able to contribute to the turtle's population growth and that's our goal," Thorvalson said.
The release takes place at 4:30 p.m. at Isle of Palms County Park, in partnership with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. Onlookers should plan to carpool, arrive early, and expect to pay for parking at the county park, according to an aquarium news release.
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