GULFPORT, Miss. (WJTV) – The journey of Fog, an endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, probably started somewhere in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, although juvenile turtles can live as far north as Nova Scotia. But in December 2020, Fog was found cold-stunned on the shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. He was admitted with pneumonia to New England Aquarium on December 11, 2020. The pneumonia was due to the bacteria, Mycobacterium chelonae, a difficult-to-treat pathogen that is common in aquatic animals.
In October 2021, Fog was one step closer to home when he was placed on an airplane and flown more than 1,600 miles south, thanks to the nonprofit group Turtles Fly Too, for additional treatment at Mississippi Aquarium. The Aquarium is located along the warm waters of the Mississippi Sound on the Gulf of Mexico. And after several months of successful rehabilitation, Fog needed a lung biopsy.
On Wednesday, April 6, the Mississippi Aquarium veterinary team welcomed Dr. Charles Innis of New England Aquarium to assist with the lung biopsy procedure on Fog. Innis is renowned for his expertise with reptiles. In 2011, he was among the first group of veterinarians to be recognized as a reptile and amphibian specialist by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. He is co-editor and co-author of the 2017 text, Sea Turtle Health and Rehabilitation.
“We were honored to have Dr. Innis, one of the world’s experts in sea turtles, come down and teach us how to do a lung biopsy,” Mississippi Aquarium Vice President of Veterinary Services Dr. Alexa Delaune said. “He started Fog’s treatment, so he wanted to see it through, and it was a great opportunity for us to learn from him.” Fog had a severe infection in New England that required long-term and intensive treatment. New England Aquarium sent him to Mississippi Aquarium because Dr. Innis knew we were willing and able to treat complicated medical cases.
Delaune said the biopsy went well, and the sea turtle is recovering from the procedure. But his road to release into the Mississippi Sound could still be several weeks away.
“It usually takes a month or longer before the results come back,” Delaune said. “His incision also has to heal, and turtles are slow healers. Since he arrived in October, he’s been eating well, and he’s grown quite a lot. We will continue monitoring his condition and treating him until he’s cleared for release.”