The Turtle Rescue Team is run by North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine veterinary students and volunteers are welcome. The goal of this rescue is to take in injured or sick turtles, treat them, and if possible, release them back into the wild near where they were found. The majority of the turtles there were Eastern box turtles with broken shells. There were also yellow-bellied sliders, snapping turtles, and river cooters. There is an in-house incubator for any eggs that are brought in, laid by a turtle, or extracted from a dead one.
Going into to this rescue I knew little about how to tell the difference between species, how to handle them, and the kinds of treatments they get. Luckily for me, the people at the Turtle Rescue Team are amazing. Everyone is helpful and willing to answer any question I could come up with. They truly wanted to help me understand how to care for and help these turtles. For the first couple days I was under the direct guidance of a veterinary student. They helped me with the anatomy of the turtle and where to give injections. For instance, I found out that injections are given in the front half of a turtle because their kidney are in the rear. This is done because if an injection would be given in the rear, the drug would be filtered out by the kidney before the drug could take effect. After these first couple of days, I was free to take on anything I wanted. If I had any questions I could ask away.
I quickly got used to the daily routine which went something as follows. All of the box turtles were soaked in water and their boxes were cleaned. The water for the water turtles, snappers, cooters, and yellow-bellied sliders, was emptied out so they could dry. Treatments started soon after. Some treatments I was able to do included flushing out fractures and putting silver sulfadiazine on the edges of the wounds. Additionally, I put Vetericyn® on flesh wounds and gave ciprofloxacin and flurbiprofen eye drops. Probably my favorite type of treatment was giving injections. I was able to give ketoprofen intramuscularly and subcutaneous fluids (lactated ringer’s solution). After all treatments were done, the box turtles were put back in their cleaned boxes and the water turtles got fresh water. The box turtles were given fruit and the water turtles were fed fish.
Once all of this was completed, surgeries were performed. I observed several amputations of legs, mostly rear legs and one front leg. There were two turtles that came in with shell fractures that I got to see repaired. To repair the shells, holes were drilled in the shell where the breaks occurred. A metal wire was guided through these holes and twisted together. Two turtles had to be euthanized during my time at the rescue. I was able to dissect one of these turtles to locate and identify its internal organs and to make sure it did not have any eggs. This was a highlight of my externship as it was my first experience with the inner workings of a turtle.
My time at the Turtle Rescue Team was quite enjoyable and I will miss working with the turtles. This externship has opened my eyes to an entirely different field of veterinary medicine. It was my first time working with exotic animals and I am grateful I had this opportunity. The work the Turtle Rescue Team is doing is for a noble cause and I wish them the best. This experience has strengthened my interest in veterinary medicine and started my interest in working with exotic animals. I would recommend volunteering at this rescue to anyone interested in veterinary medicine or anyone who likes helping a local ecosystem. If I had another chance to volunteer at this rescue, I would do it in a heartbeat.