SEATTLE — Shi Shi the sea turtle has been euthanized.
The turtle’s care team with the nonprofit SR3 “made the difficult decision … during a surgical procedure” on Monday, said Casey McLean, executive director and veterinary nurse for SR3.
A necropsy is being performed, which will provide more information about what prevented a full recovery for the turtle, rescued from near death last November from Shi Shi beach on the Makah Indian reservation.
The turtle had been pushed off course by storms into Washington’s cold waters, where its body temperature plummeted. Unable to swim or feed, the turtle washed ashore where it was found by a Makah tribal member.
The Seattle Aquarium took the turtle in and worked to bring it back to health (its sex was not determined.) With round-the-clock care, the sea turtle rallied and eventually became well enough to be transferred to SR3’s rescue facility in Des Moines.
The turtle looked to be making a strong recovery in a December exam. The turtle just needed to start eating regularly. Then, the next step seemed almost a sure thing: another move to SeaWorld in San Diego, for holding until Shi Shi could be returned to the wild, once the weather warmed.
Cold-stunned turtles have been successfully revived by the Aquarium and its partners in the past, most recently, in the case of Tucker the Turtle, rescued, cold stunned, from an Oregon beach in 2015.
Tucker was last tracked in 2017 traveling to Mexico with two female companions, following release from SeaWorld.
But for Shi Shi, it was not to be.
Amy Olsen, a research technician at the Aquarium, sat up with the turtle night after night when it first arrived, carefully monitoring its temperature to raise it ever so slowly — opening doors, closing doors, turning the air conditioning off and on, and stroking the animal’s head, neck and shell to encourage it to breathe.
The night shift and caring for the turtle were a special time, Olsen said. “With rehabilitation, I try not to get my hopes up too high … we have had many turtles that have not lasted the first night. The fact that it seemed to get better, my hopes did start to climb.”
She said she was grateful for the combined efforts of government and non-governmental workers and volunteers that got the turtle as far as they did.
“We tried the very best that we can.”