Official Statement From Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Issued August 24, 2011:
Loggerhead Marinelife Center is deeply saddened to report that Andre, the sea turtle that captured the attention and adoration of the community, was found deceased on Hutchinson Island early this morning in such a poor condition that a cause of death could not be determined.
The scientific advancements we made while rehabilitating Andre are already being applied in the treatment of other threatened and endangered sea turtles. With ongoing community support, we will continue our work in education, research and rehabilitation with incredible passion. We are committed to making sure sea turtles live in an ocean that is free from threats to their survival. The sad and unexpected news of Andre’s passing reminds us that his plight inspired many people to understand the continued need for ocean conservation.
We’d like to thank the community, our volunteers and the countless people from all over the world that supported Andre during his rehabilitation at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. If you would like a place to share your feelings, please feel free to post your comments here>>
The Story of Andre the Sea Turtle
Andre, an endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia Mydas), will return to the wild on August 3, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. after over 13 months of rehabilitation using medical technology rarely used on animals. Having beaten the odds after sustaining multiple watercraft injuries, Andre will make his way back to the ocean (weather and surf permitting) in hopes that he will mate during sea turtle nesting season. The media and public are encouraged to attend the event, which will highlight three revolutionary medical therapies that have helped to save the turtle’s life.
Andre arrived at Loggerhead Marinelife Center on June 15, 2010 in critical condition. Beachgoers noticed him stranded on a sandbar on Juno Beach – just a few miles from Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Onlookers brought Andre to shore where they called Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a non-profit facility whose mission is to promote conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The center’s core competencies include education, research and rehabilitation and in the coming year, Andre would become an icon for each.
Staff veterinarian Nancy Mettee, D.V.M., performed an initial exam, noting the turtle’s guarded prognosis. Andre’s injuries left his body cavity exposed. There were over three pounds of sand weighing on Andre’s organs causing severe displacement and infection. Other conditions included a collapsed lung, pneumonia and a badly damaged shell. There was even a crab living in Andre's body cavity! Dr. Mettee reached out to a colleague at a nearby hospital for guidance and was directed to a representative from Kinetic Concepts Inc. (KCI), a San Antonio-based company that specializes in new technologies and therapies designed to make wound healing manageable for caregivers and more comfortable for patients. KCI worked with Dr. Mettee to implant Strattice™ Reconstructive Tissue Matrix, an acellular skin matrix that acts as a scaffold until Andre’s wounds were revascularized and repopulated with the turtle’s own functional, living tissue.
Additionally, while not intended for use on underwater animals, KCI’s V.A.C.® Therapy proved instrumental in helping Andre’s wounds heal. V.A.C.® Therapy promotes healing by delivering negative pressure at the wound site. KCI’s team worked with Loggerhead Marinelife Center to retrofit the device to ensure its effectiveness in Andre’s underwater environment.
With the turtle’s infection steadily resolving, Dr. Mettee and her team began brainstorming ways to repair the gaping defects in Andre’s shell. They needed something to create tension in some areas of the carapace and movement in other areas. Because orthodontics have this effect within humans skulls, Dr. Mettee thought application to a sea turtle’s shell may have similar results. To her knowledge, it would be the first time orthodontics were ever used to help manipulate fractures in a sea turtle’s shell.
Alberto A. Vargas, DMD, MS, of Vargas Orthodontics in Jupiter, FL heard about the project from a colleague and became immediately interested in donating his services. In November 2010, Drs. Mettee and Vargas set out to see if orthodontic appliances would significantly heal wounds to a sea turtle’s carapace. They tested the procedure on “Penyu,” a sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle that also sustained a watercraft injury to its shell. After six weeks of orthodontic treatment, Drs. Mettee and Vargas found significant improvement in the healing of Penyu’s injuries with new shell growth measuring over one centimeter in some areas. It was the green light they needed to move forward in planning a similar procedure on Andre, whose wounds were much more severe. Dr. Vargas’ team took molds of the turtle’s shell to create custom fixtures, just like they would to treat a human patient. Drs. Vargas and Mettee worked together to create a treatment plan.
Andre received six orthodontic appliances on Feb. 15, 2011 with the help of Drs. Mettee and Vargas and their colleagues. Of those appliances, four were aimed at pulling parts of Andre’s shell together while two were aimed at pushing apart the shell to increase growth. The largest appliance measured 9.5 centimeters. Also called palate expanders, Loggerhead Marinelife Center rehabilitation employees used keys to rotate the six parts until they reach resistance each day. The appliances were removed in May 2011, resulting in as much as 2 centimeters of closure in some areas.
In the past year, over 200 supporters have adopted the turtle from 25 states in the U.S., and countries as far away as Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Similarly, people from all over the world have logged on to watch Andre’s progress over a live webcam that hovers above his tank. Others have mailed in stacks of get well cards. Andre has resonated with the center's 200,000 annual visitors as a symbol of the continued need for ocean conservation. His story has inspired a lot of people!
Named for the greenish color of their body fat, green sea turtles like Andre are listed as “endangered” by the Endangered Species Act. Although they have persisted hundreds of millions of years, today survival of the species is threatened by beach lighting, habitat alterations, and other human activity. Thousands are expected to attend Andre’s release on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011 to witness his return to the ocean, including representatives from KCI and Vargas Orthodontics, as well as school groups, Girl and Boy Scout troops, and more. The occasion will be memorable for all in attendance.
We hope you'll join us!