A project of Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
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Life Stage: sub-adult
Release Date: 2011-06-18 00:00:00
Release Location: Jekyll Island, GA
Last Location: 2011-09-28 08:06:37
Phantom is a sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle who stranded on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia on July 30, 2009. Phantom was found moving around on the beach, which is unusual for a sub-adult loggerhead because she/he was too young to nest. She/he was brought to the GSTC where it was very obvious what was wrong with her/him. Phantom had a severe head injury and was missing her/his left eye and half of her/his upper jaw. Originally we believed that this was due to a boat propeller strike, but a couple of days later we took radiographs (x-rays) of her/him and discovered part of a large fish hook that was embedded in the soft tissue of her/his neck. Re-inspection of the oral cavity revealed the cut end of the hook was just barely protruding into the back of the throat. This led us to believe that someone had cut the hook and line and most likely caused the head wound in the process. Surprisingly, she/he was in fairly good body condition upon arrival and the head wound was almost healed. The GSTC staff tube fed Phantom for over a month. Surgery was performed to remove the hook, which proved to be very difficult because there was scar tissue and infection surrounding it. The wound was left open due to the infection. The wound was packed with honey and honey comb and suture loops were placed around the wound, which allowed it to be closed with shoe lace like material called umbilical tape. This allowed for regular debridement (removal of dead tissue) of the wound and repacking it with honey until it was healed. Once the infection was resolved, another surgery was performed to suture the wound closed. When she recovered, we began to try a variety of things to get Phantom to eat. She/he was obviously very interested in food but just could not figure out how to eat it with her half missing upper beak. One of our volunteers built a PVC box contraption that allowed Phantom to push food into a corner rather than the rounded edges of the tank. We also began using our hands to cover the hole in her face to hold the food in (do not try that at home!). Phantom has learned to live with her disability and is now regulating the force with which she expels extra salt water and can eat fish off of the bottom of her tank. Additionally on October 19th, Phantom killed and ate a live crab (one of her natural prey items) on her own; a feat we didn’t believe was possible. It just goes to show you, never give up on one of these amazing animals!