Sick turtle restored to health

After MRI, months of hand-feeding, turtle released into wild

It was one of the more unusual MRI scans the staff at 3T Cayman imaging clinic has ever been asked to perform.

The procedure itself was simple enough. The only complication was that in this case, the patient was a turtle.

Ebb, a sick juvenile green turtle found floating off Crystal Harbour in November, was briefly admitted to the hospital as the community came together to nurse the animal back to health.

Dr. Yaron Rado, who performed the scan at the request of the Department of Environment, said he had been happy to help.

The turtle, which was too sick to move, was placed in a tray and went through the MRI machine.

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“She wasn’t eating, so we were looking for an obstruction. We got some very good pictures, but we didn’t find anything,” he said.

It was not the first time Dr. Rado had performed an MRI on a turtle. He was able to use the technology to diagnose a collapsed lung in a hawksbill turtle in 2008. In that case, the turtle was only able to swim on its right side.

India and Juliet Austin get ready to release the sick turtle back into the wild after helping nurse it back to health. – PHOTO: DOE

This time, the scan was just one element of the medical care given to the turtle by members of the Department of Environment, the Cayman Turtle Centre and their friends and families.

The community effort paid off and the turtle was released back into the wild on Friday.

It was reported to the DoE in November after being found in a canal off Crystal Harbour, floating on the surface of the water, unable to eat or to swim.

The ailing reptile was initially taken in by the Department of Environment, and then kept in a tank at the home of the DoE’s deputy director Tim Austin.

Dr. Yaron Rado preps the patient for its MRI. – PHOTOS: DOE

Along with his wife Juliet and daughters India and Georgia, Austin hand-fed and cared for the injured turtle.

“My daughters were the ones that looked after it really,” he said.

“We literally had to hold its mouth open and feed it pellets, donated by the Cayman Turtle Centre, three times a day. After a while, it started to get stronger and stronger and miraculously it started feeding by itself.”

Mr. Austin and his family tempted the turtle with squid and fish to try and get it to feed on its own, and administered eye drops to help deal with an eye injury

He said it may have been blind in one eye or suffering from a neurological problem affecting its sight and jaw muscles. The turtle also received both antibiotic and anti-parasitic medications under the care of DoE scientists and vets from the Cayman Turtle Centre, Island Veterinary Services and St. Matthew’s University.

After several months of care, Austin said the turtle appeared to be fully recovered.

Ebb the turtle goes through the MRI machine at 3T Cayman.

“We built a turtle grass habitat in the tank to ensure it could feed on its own. It was quite happy to feed on the sea grass and so we were comfortable releasing it.”

The turtle was put back into the water at South Sound on Friday.

It is not the first unwell animal that DoE staff and the wider community have helped nurse back to health. Parrots, a crocodile and even a manatee have been found sick or injured and restored to health in Cayman over the years.

Editor’s note: This story has been amended from the original to show the MRI was carried out at 3T Cayman Ltd.

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