Injured sea turtle takes flight for treatment at Keys hospital

Turtle was found severely hurt in St. Thomas


MIAMI – A 30-pound juvenile green sea turtle flew into Miami International Airport from St. Thomas late Tuesday to receive treatment at an animal hospital in the Florida Keys.

"The folks at Coral World Ocean Park rescued this turtle found on a rocky cliff upside down. They actually thought it was dead," said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of Turtle Hospital Florida Keys. "When they got down there and they turned her over she, like, gasped for air. It was, like, wow, this is a miracle."

Khepri is her name and she had a massive traumatic injury on the right front flipper which is now  bandaged up. With the help of American Airlines she can now get the treatment she needs.

"Flippers crossed. We are going to save that flipper," said Mark Nelson, American Airlines general manager for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But even if Khepri loses that flipper, she can go back into the wild and survive with three flippers.

Before being stable enough to fly, Khepri was receiving fluid and antibiotic therapy and wound treatments two to three times a day at Coral World in St. Thomas. 

"She's alert. She's responsive and in better shape than I thought she was going to be," Zirkelbach said.

After getting her heart rate and temperature checked, her caretakers applied some eye lube to prevent her eyes from drying.

Kapri will ride in the turtle ambulance to Turtle Hospital in Marathon, where she will be further examined by veterinarians. 

"I can't wait to see her come back to St. Thomas," Nelson said.

Veterinarians said she will have to undergo a few months in rehabilitation with the ultimate goal of being released into the wild.

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