Aquarium veterinarian travels to Mississippi to perform lung biopsy on rescued sea turtle from Cape Cod


Rehabilitation continues for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle rescued in December 2020 with a pneumonia diagnosis

four medical staff watching a monitor
Dr. Charles Innis, Director of Animal Health at the New England Aquarium, performs a lung biopsy on a rescued sea turtle alongside Mississippi Aquarium staff. CREDIT: Mississippi Aquarium

BOSTON, MASS. (April 8, 2022) – As rehabilitative care continues for a sea turtle rescued from Cape Cod in 2020, the New England Aquarium’s head veterinarian traveled to the Mississippi Aquarium to perform a lung biopsy on the animal.

Volunteers and staff from Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary found the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, named “Fog” by New England Aquarium staff, cold-stunned on the shores of Cape Cod in December 2020. The turtle was admitted to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital with pneumonia due to a bacterium called Mycobacterium chelonae, a difficult-to-treat pathogen that is common in aquatic animals. In October 2021, as New England Aquarium staff prepared for the busy sea turtle stranding season in Massachusetts, colleagues at the Mississippi Aquarium agreed to take in Fog and continue his treatment, and volunteer pilots with the non-profit organization Turtles Fly Too stepped in to transport the turtle to Gulfport, MS.

After several months of successful rehabilitation, Fog required a lung biopsy. That’s when Dr. Charles Innis, Director of Animal Health at the New England Aquarium, flew to Mississippi to assist with the lung biopsy procedure. Dr. Innis is renowned for his expertise with reptiles and was among the first group of veterinarians to be recognized as a reptile and amphibian specialist by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.

“Many ill sea turtles are stranded on Cape Cod beaches each year, so we have a lot of experience at the New England Aquarium in diagnosing and managing their medical problems,” said Dr. Innis. “Over time, managing thousands of sea turtles, we have developed surgical techniques that allow us to thoroughly characterize the nature of their illness. For the most severe pneumonia cases, we sometimes need to acquire lung biopsies to achieve a definitive diagnosis and to develop the best treatment plan.”

“We were honored to have Dr. Innis, one of the world’s experts in sea turtles, come down and teach us how to do a lung biopsy,” Mississippi Aquarium Vice President of Veterinary Services Dr. Alexa Delaune said. “He started Fog’s treatment, so he wanted to see it through, and it was a great opportunity for us to learn from him.”

Veterinary staff said the biopsy went well, and Fog is recovering from the procedure. His road to release into the Mississippi Sound could still be several weeks away as he continues to heal.

“We are grateful that the Mississippi Aquarium is willing to assist with long-term rehabilitation of many of the turtles that strand in Massachusetts, and we are happy to be able teach our techniques to their veterinarians,” Dr. Innis said.


Pam Bechtold Snyder –, 617-686-5068