How do you mend a broken turtle? Get someone to surrender their bra.
Bra clasps, the eye-and-hook devices that tie the ends together, have turned out to be an effective, improvised tool for holding a cracked shell in place long enough to heal.
The South Carolina Aquarium medical staff uses them, particularly with smaller turtles, such as Suzie B., a rare diamondback turtle whose shell was crushed by a car recently as she moved ashore to nest.
The staff pinned her shell pieces together with the clasps, epoxy wire, orthopedic plates and screws.
The aquarium takes donations of the gear to keep a supply on hand.
“Working on non-sea turtle patients allows us to try new repair techniques and keeps our skill-set sharp," said veterinary assistant Whitney Daniel. "We can use these skills and new-found knowledge in the treatment of other animals like our sea turtle patients.”
The clasps are one more in an odd array of recycled equipment that is becoming more mainstream for treating the reptiles after grassroots turtle care organizations have shown success using the makeshift gear.
The practice isn't too common yet, said Cris Hagen, director of Animal Management for the Turtle Survival Alliance, which operates a conservation and breeding center in Charleston for terrestrial species.
"But as long as it is a successful technique and as word spreads, more and more rehabbers will likely use the technique," Hagen said.
People interested in donating clasps to the aquarium's Turtle Care Center should remove them from the clothing and mail them to Whitney Daniel, 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401.