Rescue Sea Turtle in National Aquarium's Care Receives Acupuncture to Treat Injured Jaw

Bassoon the Kemp's ridley sea turtle is eating on his own again after several weeks of daily acupuncture treatments at Baltimore's National Aquarium

Sea turtle acupucture
Photo: Theresa Keil, National Aquarium

Bassoon the Kemp's ridley sea turtle is moving a bit easier thanks to an unusual treatment for turtles.

According to a release from National Aquarium, the Baltimore facility recently administered acupuncture on Bassoon to help the animal with an injured jaw.

The juvenile turtle is one of 29 turtles that rescuers discovered stranded and cold-stunned in Cape Cope, Massachusetts, last November. The ailing animals ended up in the care of the National Aquarium. Bassoon stood out from the group as a sea turtle that needed extra care.

Upon his arrival, Bassoon was inactive, unable to move his jaw, and unable to eat. After initial attempts to get the turtle to eat on his own failed, the aquarium started administering IV nutrition to the sea creature.

Sea turtle acupucture
Theresa Keil, National Aquarium

To get Bassoon back to a place where the turtle could care for himself and safely return to the ocean, the National Aquarium took the reptile in for a CT scan, which helped veterinarians diagnose Bassoon with myositis of the jaw muscles.

To ease the inflammation of his jaw muscles, Bassoon started receiving physical therapy, anti-inflammatory injections, and acupuncture treatments. The turtle's physical therapy exercises include stretches to loosen his jaw muscles.

"While acupuncture isn't commonly performed, we have used this treatment successfully in the past with other reptiles like snakes and lizards," Dr. Aimee Berliner, the director of animal health and welfare at the National Aquarium, said in a statement about Bassoon's case. "We're so pleased to see Bassoon's progress and look forward to the day when we can return him to his ocean home."

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The acupuncture sessions turned out to be just what Bassoon needed. After several weeks of daily acupuncture treatments, the sea turtle has made enough progress with his jaw mobility to no longer require the sessions.

Bassoon can now fully open his jaw and is foraging for food independently. The aquarium also remarked that the sea turtle is more alert and active now. Bassoon is not prepared to return to the ocean yet, as he is still receiving treatment for pneumonia.

The sea turtle's success with acupuncture has left the Nation Aquarium optimistic that Bassoon will make a full recovery.

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