By Samantha Grillo @_samanthagrillo
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Videographer / Director: South Carolina Aquarium
Producer: Samantha Grillo, Nick Johnson
Editor: Sonia Estal
The 475lb leatherback sea turtle was found washed ashore by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources near Georgetown, USA.
The massive turtle, named Yawkey, is one of the few live strandings reported in the United States.
Yawkey, who is believed to be under 10 years old and of unknown gender, is the first leatherback patient at the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Hospital.
South Carolina Sea Turtle Rescue Program manager, Kelly Thorvalson oversaw the rescue and release of the animal.
Kelly said: “It’s incredibly rare for Leatherbacks to strand alive - so it was pretty amazing to even hear the news.
“These animals are gigantic, and whether or not we would be able to keep it and bring it to the hospital was something we had to figure out."
Once admitted, Yawkey was under 24 hour surveillance at the hospital.
Kelly said: “Our scale couldn’t weigh the turtle on the first day, but it was estimated to weigh 500lbs.
“It was extremely lethargic and hypoglycemic when it was first admitted to us.
“We did follow up treatments of antibiotics, fluids and vitamins and within a few days she started to perk up.”
After four days of medical treatment, Yawkey was cleared for release.
The turtle was tagged with a microchip and flipper tags and taken to the Atlantic Ocean in a custom container.
Kelly said: “We had an army of staff at the aquarium to help with an engine hoist to lift her up out of the tank and into a custom built transport box.
“Once out on the beach the sides folded down and she was able to crawl out of the box.
“Just being able to be part of this animal’s rescue and rehabilitation was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“We came together as a team and I cannot express how happy we are with the release of this animal.”
Leatherback sea turtles are the largest living turtles in the world and can weigh as much as 2,000 lbs and can grow up to 8ft in length.
Globally, they are listed as vulnerable, but subpopulations in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic are critically endangered.
To help care for sea turtles in recovery in the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue program, please visit http://www.scaquarium.org.