Turtle Patient 160: Pickle, Adult female Olive Ridley

Turtle patient Pickle recovering in tank. Image.

Pickle was found entangled in a net and washed up on the beach at Finolhu Resort in Baa Atoll.

The Vitals

Intake Date: 10 December 2021
Patient Number: 160
Rescue Location: Baa Atoll
Reason: Found entangled and washed up on beach
Transport Method: Speedboat
Status: Tagged and Released 23 May 2022

Species: Olive ridley
Scientific Name: Lepidochelys olivacea
Sex: Female
Age: Adult
Length: 69 cm
Weight: 27.4 kg

Pickle’s Journey

Tag Deployed: 22 May 2022
Tagged Turtle #: 2
Date Released: 23 May 2022
Release Location: Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu
Release Region: Baa Atoll, Maldives

Travel Direction: South
Total Distance Travelled: 2,481 km
Est. Average Speed Per Hour: 1.47 km
Average Daily Distance: 35.4 km
Deepest Dive: 81-90 m

the Adoptive Parents

Pickle has kindly been adopted for Phoebe by Claire, for Erich by Lina, by Ines, for Grzegorz by Alexandra Jamaica, by Hannah & Dominic Stadler, Rebecca, Manoj, Flora, for Lise by Veronique, by Nicole Moss, for Matilda by Madeleine Paull, for Sarah by Sabine & Michael Abele, by Nanami Shibata, Elisabeth, for Maria, and for Peggy by Franziska Schmidt.

Pickle’s Story

Pickle is a large adult female olive ridley turtle found entangled in a net and washed up on the beach at Finolhu Resort. She is in generally good health but has a number of significant wounds caused by ghost gear entanglement. Her front left has an old amputation; her back left has been badly constricted and is very swollen but should be OK; and her back right has been completely torn off by a shark and will need a surgical amputation at the knee. Her surgery will take place in the coming few days once we are confident she is strong and capable of dealing with an anesthetic.

12 December 2021
We performed surgery on Pickle on Sunday. It went well and we are hopeful that once she recovers fully, she will be back out into the blue without delay.

19 December 2021
Pickle had a successful surgery and a good recovery initially, but after being placed in the tank we had some issues with her clearing her head to breathe properly. This has resulted in the aspiration of some sea water which could lead to a lung infection, so we are her watching closely. She isn’t eating yet, however, this is quite common amongst newly admitted older adults. We are therefore providing her with regular fluids and she is also undergoing extensive wound care.

Unfortunately it appears her wounds are worse than initially thought. On her back left flipper, despite the bones being completely intact, the constriction from the ghost net cut off the blood supply to the skin which is now dying and sloughing off. We have already had to remove some parts of her flipper, but unfortunately it looks like more will come away in time. Her front left flipper, which had been partially amputated by the net, has now shown some deep constriction wounds that weren’t initially obvious until the skin started to break down. She appears to have a significant skin infection and has been switched to a new antibiotic. We are also doing daily wound care. Thankfully she is still an excellent diver and swimmer.

26 December 2021
Pickle had a second surgery this Tuesday to remove a significant amount of dead and dying tissue from her back left flipper and her front left flipper. Her wounds are really substantial, with a lot of exposed bone and an ongoing severe skin infection. We are monitoring her closely and giving her daily wound care and regular antibiotics and pain relief, but we have a long road ahead. However, we are very encouraged as she finally started eating just today (Sunday)! She finally ate 5-6 prawns after not touching a morsel since she arrived so this is great progress.

2 January 2022
Pickle is finally having a better time of it and she has started to eat prawns fairly consistently; still no fish but we are working on it. Her eating is the best possible sign as it means she is starting to feel better and will be able to maintain her own hydration levels. She is now having dedicated wound care every three days to reduce her stress levels, and this is helping encourage her appetite. Her wounds still have a way to go but slowly we will get there.

9 January 2022
Pickle is doing really well this week. Although she still has significant wounds and injuries, she has started to show food seeking behavior and is consistently eating prawns. She is quite active and alert and is generally doing much better!

16 January 2021
Pickle is going from strength to strength. She is much more active and alert, actively seeking out her food and eating all her tuna. Her wounds are also healing well.

23 January 2022
Pickle has been doing really well with her wounds and her appetite, but we have noticed that she didn’t try to dive much despite having no buoyancy issues. We initiated some training and it has become apparent she doesn’t have full range of motion in her remaining right front flipper. This is concerning given the situation with her other flippers and we will be taking x-rays to clarify if there are any issues within her shoulder joint.

30 January 2022
Pickle had minor surgery under local anaesthesia this week to remove some dying bone from her right front flipper. Unfortunately this is her only good flipper and she isn’t able to use it very much right now. We are unsure if it is down to pain or some kind of shoulder joint problem; her X-rays aren’t flagging up shoulder joint issues, but it could still be early stages. Unfortunately, this has set her back significantly, when otherwise her wounds were healing really well.

6 February 2022
Pickle has been moved to the big tank, sharing with Atlas and Jodie which is thankfully quite harmonious at the moment. Unfortunately, she still has minimal movement in her right front flipper and we still cannot detect the cause; it doesn’t seem to have responded to the meds we have tried so far. We will be repeating X-rays regularly to see if there are any changes. Despite this, her buoyancy control is excellent and she is actually able to dive really well, so we are impressed at her resolve. She is enjoying having the space to rest on the bottom.

13 February 2022
Pickle is still happily co-existing with Atlas and Jodie, and although very slow and cumbersome when she dives, she is able to comfortably rest on the bottom most of the time now. This is great news and has also reduced her stress levels. She is eating and taking her medication well. She had a repeat X-ray of her right shoulder this week, as well as an ultrasound. Unfortunately, it does appear as if there are significant abnormalities to her shoulder joint with large abnormal fluid pockets appearing around it. It is hard to ascertain if this is due to a moderate dislocation or something else, but she only has very small amounts of movement in a downwards position. This is really devastating and we are trying our hardest to fix it, because if this doesn’t resolve, she cannot be released. 

20 February 2022
Pickle is still struggling with her right shoulder which is really frustrating. If it wasn’t for this, she could have been released. She does have a bit more movement than before, but it still isn’t great and the reasons for that are still unclear. We plan to sedate her to relax her muscles and have a better feel and assessment for what is going on. Otherwise she is very active and alert, and is always resting on the bottom.

6 March 2022
Pickle continues to struggle with her right flipper but we have noticed gradual improvement with time; she is generally a bit quicker and more mobile. She has spent the last 2 weeks happily cruising around the bottom of the big tank, picking up bits of food that the rest of her tank mates can’t catch. She is a bit slower than everyone else, which means she needs special attention at feeding time, but overall we are happy with her progress.

13 March 2022
Pickle is gradually regaining some function of her right front flipper but it is still not normal. She is no longer on any medication and her wounds are now 100% healed on all flippers, but the function is still not quite there. She is an excellent diver and is always resting on the bottom, so it is frustrating to still find ourselves with an issue that stops her from being released. We continue to give her time and space and will repeat X-rays in the coming weeks.

20 March 2022
The function of Pickle’s right front flipper is definitely returning; we have noticed an increase in her range of motion as she’s swimming around the big tank. She is also very active and is diving excellently. We will continue to monitor her and provide supportive care and, with any luck, it may resolve in its own time.

27 March 2022
Pickle’s right flipper usage is improving more noticeably at this stage, so we are now much more hopeful that we can release her in the not too distant future. She is not on any medication, we are simply giving her time and space to recover.

3 April 2022
Pickle has improved in leaps and bounds this week with markedly better right flipper movement; she has regained around 80% function – which is amazing news! We will continue to give her the space and time to fully heal and monitor her closely, but it is looking much more positive.

10 April 2022
After having an incredible week last week, with vastly improved flipper motion, Pickle has had a setback this week. We repeated her X-rays and ultrasound of her flipper to monitor its progress and discovered that the shoulder issue looks like it has an infectious origin, despite the great clinical progress. She has been started on antibiotics again. Unfortunately, likely due to the manipulation of the joint while examining her, she has gone back to using it minimally. We will continue to give her time and space and maintain a hands off approach. We are still confident that in time, she will recover.

24 April 2022
Pickle is currently on a course of antibiotics for a suspected infectious origin at her shoulder. She is otherwise using her flipper well and diving too. She is likely the next best candidate for satellite tag placement and release, hopefully in late May this year.

1 May 2022
A repeat X-ray of Pickle’s front right shoulder will be scheduled after the end of her antobiotic course on May 18, 2022. Meanwhile, videos of her on-going flipper movement are taken on a regular basis.

8 May 2022
Pickle has been using her flipper with a marked improvement in range of motion and flexibility. We also regularly see her resting comfortably at the bottom of her tank and her appetite is consistently great – all good signs! We will be scheduling a repeat X-ray to re-assess her front right shoulder at the end of her antibiotic course.

15 May 2022
Although there has a significant improvement in Pickle’s front flipper movement over the past 3 weeks, the back flipper movements remains limited. Despite this, she has no issue diving and moving around in her tank. We will be scheduling a blood check and repeat X-ray to re-assess her front right shoulder at the end of her antibiotic course. 

22 May 2022
Pickle’s pre-release X-rays and bloodwork have shown marked improvement since he was first admitted in mid-December last year. The range of movement of both of her front flippers appears to be normal based on tank-side observation. A satellite tag, identical to that of Autumn’s, was secured on her carapace today, ready for release tomorrow.

23 May 2022
Pickle was the second turtle patient to be released with a satellite tag – on World Turtle Day no less! She was a released from the beach at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu with a lot of guests cheering her on. At first, she was a little disorientated but she soon got her bearings and swam off into the deep blue, heading south.

30 June 2022
Since her release, Pickle has covered a distance of 1,497kms. Her daily average distance comes close to Autumn’s at 40.5kms and Pickle’s deepest dive as of now is recorded at 81- 90m. We’re most excited to report that Pickle, after a stint in the open ocean east of the Maldives, is currently heading back to the Maldives! She is roughly at the same latitude as Meemu Atoll at the moment.

31 July 2022
Pickle covered a distance of 2,481 kms between her release on May 23rd and the end of July! After a stint in a south-easterly direction and a u-turn back to the Maldives, she slowly swam south from Meemu Atoll, all the way past Gaafu, and was heading in the direction of Fuvamulah and Addu. Unfortunately, that is when her tag stopped transmitting data. Since Pickle came close to a well-known tiger shark area, we sincerely hope that the tag stopped working simply due to biofouling or tag loss.

We still collected a total of 70 days of data from Pickle and are excited to analyse it in detail to potentially see what Pickle was doing during her time in Maldivian waters.