Fitzy had not eaten on her own by Monday so the decision was made to force feed her. Aquarists Christian Legner and Kristin Clark, our “top-notch team” for this procedure, removed Fitzy from the tank and got her first weight, 44.9 lb, since arriving at N.E.S.T. Rehab. We will use this as her base weight as she is re-weighted approx. every 2 weeks. You will notice from the photos that her barnacle load is much less than when she arrived. That’s due to her being in fresh water initially which helps kill them and their being removed by her caretakers as their glue weakens.
Christian and Kristin then prepared to feed Fitzy, Kristin restraining the turtle and positioning the head as Christian forced food through the mouth and into the esophagus. First (#1)the beak must be forced open and (#2) a device inserted to keep it open during (#3) the feeding (of squid stuffed with capelin).
In the photo below (Photo: Teresa Kelly/NCRI Aquarium), the cilia in the esophagus are visible. Once the inserted food reaches the cilia, it is conveyed on to the stomach.
Following the feeding, the aquarists removed more of the barnacles, esp. from the loggerhead’s soft tissue, and applied an antibiotic cream to help heal areas where deeply embedded barnacles had been.
Fitzy will continue receiving vitamin B complex as an appetite stimulant, as well as antibiotics. She continues to be very active but she also continues her raspy, labored breathing. As soon as she starts eating on her own, the force feeding will end. Her continued amazing activity level is exciting and positive!