Image by Flickr user brian.gratwicke
The long-term value of rehabilitating sea turtles was substantiated on July 5th, when the first loggerhead rehabilitated at the South Carolina Aquarium was recaptured nearly 10 years after it was released from what has developed into a full-fledged Sea Turtle Hospital.
This loggerhead, dubbed "Stinky" by the Aquarium's animal care staff, was recently recaptured a few miles off central Georgia by the R/V Georgia Bulldog during a regional turtle trawl survey managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Between release and recapture, Stinky's weight increased from 103 to 176 pounds and his length grew by five inches, which is a normal rate of growth for a juvenile loggerhead of this size.
The story of how this loggerhead came to the Aquarium on August 22, 2000 was detailed in the August-November 2000 issue of Loggerheadlines.
This story is a remarkable example of the success of rehabilitation, for which little data is available. While satellite-telemetry (which has been used by the South Carolina Aquarium) provides a means to gauge the initial success of rehabilitation and release, documenting long-term survivorship requires recapturing turtles which is not common. Stinky is only the second of 51 sea turtles to be recaptured following successful rehabilitation and release by the Aquarium, both of which were recaptured in the regional in-water trawl survey.