Schoolchildren looking down at it probably didn't notice the small scar running the length of its head -- a remnant from when a boat propeller cracked its skull.
Vortex is much better now 14 months after the accident nearly exposed its brain, cracked two parts of its shell and pushed a bone chip into its jaw. The piece worked its way out over time through the neck, and that hole also had to be treated.
"It was a very, very bad injury," said aquarium curator
More than a week ago, the reptile was one of two special patients in an unlikely place: a human medical facility on the
A CT scan was performed for free at Sentara Kitty Hawk on
The teenage turtle, the diameter of a round skim board, can catch and eat blue crabs, a strong sign of good health, said Legner, who has injected antibiotics and applied infection-fighting cream to the wounds.
Vortex is expected to be released this month carrying a satellite fastened to its back with marine epoxy.
"Clinically, it's ready to go," she said.
Loggerhead turtles are classified as threatened along the
Vortex is about 15 years old, Legner said. Sea turtles reach maturity at 25 to 30. Males have long tails jutting out behind the shell, while those of females are short. Vortex remains an "it" until the tail unveils the gender in about a decade, she said.
The sea turtle nest count at the park is down to 109, bucking a recent trend of reaching over 200 the past two years, according to rangers. More turtles could still nest at
Legner and the staff have treated 25 sea turtles so far, predominantly for cold stun suffered in the winter. Last year, 104 were brought to the center, often saved by one of the more than 150 volunteers with the
Aquile, a rare green turtle that also got a CT scan, swam in a tank near Vortex. The dinner-plate-size turtle suffered frostbite on its shell early last winter, losing part of it and a piece of its vertebra and exposing the spinal cord. The skin and shell are gradually growing back in place, but the wounds are serious.
"It will need long-term care," Legner said.
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