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Sea turtle gets acupuncture at National Aquarium

Although an unusual treatment for reptiles, the innovative act helped mend the young sea turtle’s jaw when he wasn’t able to open it by himself and eat food.

BALTIMORE — When one young sea turtle was initially rescued by the National Aquarium, he couldn’t open his jaw and feed himself. 

However, all of that has changed with a few innovative treatments spearheaded by the aquarium’s Animal Health and Rescue team. Although many people have experienced acupuncture at a spa day, one turtle has experienced his own version in Baltimore.

Nicknamed Bassoon, the young turtle arrived in the city in November after getting stranded in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, along with 29 other turtles.

Oftentimes, cold-stunned turtles - facing a colder temperature than they’re usually used to - don't always eat during their first few weeks in rehabilitation, After a month, the team at the aquarium began administering IV nutrition for the new turtle so that he could get the nutrients he needed, they explained.

Shortly after, Bassoon underwent a CT scan and was ultimately diagnosed with myositis of the jaw muscles. That’s when the health team kickstarted localized anti-inflammatory injections along with physical therapy and acupuncture treatment. 

“While acupuncture isn’t commonly performed, we have used this treatment successfully in the past with other reptiles like snakes and lizards,” said Dr. Aimee Berliner, director of Animal Health and Welfare at the National Aquarium. “We’re so pleased to see Bassoon’s progress and look forward to the day when we can return him to his ocean home.”

After weeks of treatment, the young turtle can now fully open his jaw and is finally successfully foraging for food on his own. The Aquarium’s Animal Health experts report, in addition, that Bassoon is now much more alert and active than he was when he arrived.

The aquarium has said that, though he has made major improvements, Bassoon is not yet a candidate for release as he is still receiving treatments for pneumonia. 

“While there is still a long road ahead, the National Aquarium team is optimistic that he will ultimately make a full recovery,” the team said. 

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