A few weeks ago, our friends at Pokagon State Park called with a problem: a 26-year-old Blanding’s turtle named Mr. Happy wasn’t looking so happy. This turtle, named for the perpetual “smile” on his face, lives at Pokagon’s Nature Center and is a staff and visitor favorite.
Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Indiana, so Mr. Happy is an important ambassador for our state’s wildlife. In May, Mr. Happy stopped eating and became lethargic. Fred Wooley, Pokagon’s longtime naturalist, called on Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith for help.
“When Mr. Happy arrived at the zoo, he didn’t look well at all,” said Smith, who quickly determined the cause of Mr. Happy’s dire state: Mr. Happy had swallowed a very large rock. The rock was lodged in the turtle’s stomach and completely blocked his digestive tract. He also had pneumonia, because bits of food had made their way into his lungs.
Using an endoscope (a flexible tube which can be inserted down the throat), a steady hand, and much patience, Smith was able to remove the pesky pebble. “It took two hours to get the rock out,” Smith said.
With his stomach now freed of the rock, Mr. Happy got right back to business. “He started eating almost immediately after we finished the procedure,” Smith said.
Mr. Happy is back at Pokagon’s Nature Center, basking in the admiration of his many fans. “People beam when I tell them the story of that turtle,” said Wooley. “I have to give Dr. Joe and his staff all the credit in the world.” And the rock? “We have it pinned above his aquarium,” Wooley said – presumably where the turtle can’t take a bite of it again.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.