MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Pelican Harbor Seabird Station nursed two freshwater turtles back to health and released one of them back into the wild after they were found chained together and carrying voodoo dolls in Miami Beach.
According to a news release, Pelican Harbor received the turtles in November after they were found frantically swimming in the ocean in opposite directions.
Pelican Harbor staff members said each turtle had a hole drilled in the edge of its shell, where a lock was attached to the chain that contained a bag in the middle.
Employees later confirmed the bizarre sight was part of a religious ceremony, as the bag contained two voodoo dolls, cinnamon cloves and two photos of an unknown couple.
"We have seen interesting cases before, but I have never seen one like this," wildlife rehabilitation manager Yaritza Acosta said.
Employees said one of the turtles, a juvenile male peninsula cooter, was released Thursday at a freshwater lake at Amelia Earhart Park. The turtle had spent 71 days in care for shell rot and a respiratory infection.
Employees said the second turtle is still undergoing treatment and will eventually be released by the Animal Rescue Mission, which has a private sanctuary and investigates animal cruelty cases.
Pelican Harbor has also recently treated an osprey, vulture and two hawks that suffered gunshot wounds in Miami-Dade County.
"It's always difficult when we receive patients that are admitted as a result of animal cruelty. South Florida's native birds and wildlife are to be revered and respected, not shot or chained together," executive director Chris Boykin said.
Anyone who sees an injured animal is asked to call their nearest wildlife rehabilitation facility immediately.
Click here to learn more about Pelican Harbor.