The veterinarian at the Florida Keys-basedTurtle Hospitalharvested 58 eggs from an endangered female hawksbill sea turtle after the reptile died suddenly early Tuesday.
The turtle was transported to the hospital from the U.S. Virgin Islands Sept. 1, after she was discovered severely injured a week before on Good Hope Beach in St. Croix. Named after the beach, she had been improving, hospital officials had said, pointing out she was responding to treatment and continuing to produce eggs.
"Good Hope" was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair lower eyelids Tuesday morning, but when hospital staff arrived to begin preparations, they discovered her deceased. Instead Dr. Doug Mader removed the eggs so that hospital staff could incubate them nestled in beach sand shipped from St. Croix.
The harvested eggs were added to incubators already accommodating 61 eggs that Good Hope laid on her own while convalescing at the hospital.
Mader said that short term cause of death was pneumonia, but that the reptile died from "overwhelming injuries" she had sustained likely after being entangled in fishing gear before being discovered on Good Hope Beach shortly after Tropical Storm Isaac brushed the Virgin Islands.
"Reptiles are strange creatures and (sometimes) when they start looking better, they crash," Mader said. "We can only hope that some of her eggs hatch and carry her genes forward."