1. Chapter 1: Route is Rescued
In October, 2008, a juvenile Kemp’s ridley turtle arrived at the New England Aquarium with serious injuries. He was the 128th turtle rescued that year, so the rescue team named him Route, after Boston’s Route 128. It wasn’t clear what exactly what caused his injury. Several areas of his shell were broken, he had a large wound on his left shoulder and left front flipper, and a broken left humerus (the bone between the shoulder and the elbow). He had lost a lot of blood and was very anemic. He had orthopedic surgery to stabilize the humerus. In the picture you can see one of the metal bars that is keeping the bone in place until it heals. You can also see some wires that are holding the broken shell together. Unfortunately, the injury damaged the blood supply to the end of his flipper and some of it had to be amputated. Fortunately, the rescue team still had hope that Route could recover and be released, since sea turtles in the wild have been known to survive with only one front flipper.
2. Chapter 2: Route on the Road to Recovery
By January of 2009, Route is looking better. He is eating well, and trying to bite volunteers as they feed him! These are all good signs. Route is no longer anemic, as his body has regenerated the blood cells that were lost during his original injury. The rescue team removed the metal bars that were used to stabilize his broken flipper. The bone did not heal perfectly and it has not yet completed healing, but it is healing in a functional position. His other wounds are all healing very well. The only question that remains is… can he learn to swim with only one front flipper?
3. Chapter 3: Route Gets on the Turtle Treadmill
In March of 2009, Route decides to take matters into his own flippers. He starts doing physical therapy on its own, using the outflow jet in his recovery tank as a sort of water treadmill. The turtle swims against the current in one place for quite a while in between sleeping and eating. Although most of the left front flipper (LFF) was removed, he starts to use it fairly effectively while turning and accelerating. Route also gains over 1 kg (2.2 lbs) in one month, increasing its body weight by approximately 16%!
4. Chapter 4: Route Shows Off
That Spring, Route spends most of his time in a temporary exhibit at the Aquarium, showcasing the recovering sea turtles. He is a favorite of visitors, who watch the three flippered turtle move around just as easily as the other turtles. In this photo, two children get a close look at Route in recovery.
5. Chapter 5: Route Gets Ready to Go Free
Route gets to be very healthy looking! By the end of April, Route is ready for release. New England Aquarium rescue staff get Route and nine other turtles ready for a trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia where Route will continue his rehabilitation at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
6. Chapter 6: Route is Released
On May 29, 2009, Route is released back into the Atlantic Ocean with a crowd of cheering beachgoers looking on!