Beaufort News

A mama sea turtle was attacked by sharks in Beaufort Co. She’s recovering. Slowly

A giant sea turtle rescued after an apparent shark attack in Beaufort County waters could be in a Charleston hospital for a year.

The female loggerhead turtle — named Banzai by its caretakers at S.C. Aquarium after a character from “Lion King” — is improving and expected to recover. The turtle was rescued this month after being spotted on a sandbar off Hunting Island State Park and taken to the Sea Turtle Hospital in Charleston.

Banzai was missing about 20 percent of a front and back flipper with some of the bone exposed, sea turtle biologist Mackenzi Polk said in an email. The turtle is on antibiotics and being kept in low water while undergoing regular cold laser therapy, a treatment aimed at reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

“We’ve seen great results from using the laser in the past,” Polk said. “Banzai has been eating, which is always a great sign. As she becomes stronger and her flippers heal, she’ll have her water level increased.”

Banzai will be under the facility’s care until then. The process could take up to a year, Polk said.

A family walking along the far southern end of Hunting Island spotted the 260-pound turtle stranded on a sandbar June 3. They waded through waist-deep water to reach the turtle and splashed water on it to keep it cool while waiting on park officials.

In addition to the missing section of flippers, the turtle had cuts to its other flippers and neck consistent with a shark attack. An ultrasound at the hospital showed the turtle was nesting, meaning it is at least 25 years old.

Stranded turtle sightings aren’t common, and rescuing them requires a special state permit, park officials said this month. Last year naturalists from Hunting and Fripp islands worked to free an endangered leatherback turtle tangled in a line and buoy from a crab pot.