Hundreds of sick or injured sea turtles end up in rehabilitation facilities in Florida each year. Boat propellers, ocean garbage, or sickness takes a toll on members of the endangered species. Nursing them back to health is a goal of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.
Turf is the latest success story at the facility as she chomps on a piece of squid. Enjoying her send off meal at the Sea Turtle Rehab Center.
"We've fattened her up over the last few months,” said center director Ryan Butts.
The 15-year-old Loggerhead has been here four months. She was found floating in a power plant intake canal.
"She was just sick, just had a nasty raging infection and came in about 30 to 40 pounds underweight," Butts said.
Sea turtle specialists immediately started pumping Turf with antibiotics and squid.
"If we can get them to pull through for the first 48 hours, we have a really high rate of success," Butts said.
The hospital is having plenty of success, nursing 250 sea turtles back to health since it open more than 3 years ago. Most of the injuries the rehab center deals with unfortunately are the result of sea turtles interacting with boaters and fishermen.
"We'll have them come in wrapped in fishing line, or they will eat fishing line because it resembles a jelly fish," Butts said. "Sometimes they are hit by boats or eat garbage."
With Turf now back to full strength, release day is a big day.
"Today is our pay day. We're releasing a female back out so she can start reproducing on her own and help expand the population," Butts said. "It's just a great day for us."
It was also a great day for the 300 people who came to watch, one boy carrying a sign that said "Good Luck Turf. Love, Jack."
With a little encouragement, Turf hit the surf and was back in her ocean home.
"She went right out there and flapped away, and that was really amazing," said Nina Kaplan who came to witness the release.
Turf has already beaten the odds by surviving to 15 years. Only one in 1,000 sea turtles reach that age. And the team members at Gumbo Limbo were both happy and sad when they sent Turf, rescue number 251, well onto her way.