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Sea turtle named Sparb released into the ocean on Earth Day after rehab

Keys resident names the turtle after her late husband

Bette Zirkelbach, front left, and Richie Moretti, front right, manager and founder respectively of the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, release "Sparb," a sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle, Thursday, April 22, 2021, at Sombrero Beach in Marathon, Fla. The reptile was found off the Florida Keys in late January 2021 with severe wounds and absent a front right flipper. It was not expected to survive but was treated with a blood transfusion, extensive wound care, broad-spectrum antibiotics, IV nutrition and laser therapy. The turtle made a full recovery and was returned to the wild in conjunction with Thursday's Earth Day celebrations. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO) (Andy Newman, Courtesy of Turtle Hospital)

MARATHON, Fla. – Sparb the loggerhead sea turtle is back home. In celebration of Earth Day, staff from the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital released a rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle back to the ocean off Marathon.

According to staff, onlookers gathered to applaud the successful release of “Sparb,” a 125-pound sub-adult sea turtle that was rescued in late January of 2021 after being discovered floating offshore. The turtle was unable to dive and had severe wounds, including a missing front right flipper.

Typically the sea turtles admitted to Turtle Hospital are named by their rescuers. Among Sparb’s rescuers was a Keys resident who wished to honor her late husband, who had that nickname and was an amputee on his right side — just like Sparb.

Sparb being released back into the ocean thanks to the team at Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys. (Courtesy of Turtle Hospital)

According to staff, when Sparb arrived at the Turtle Hospital, its condition was critical, and was not expected to survive. Treatment included a whole blood transfusion, broad-spectrum antibiotics, extensive wound care, laser therapy, fluids, vitamins, and a nourishing diet of fish and squid.

“We have a sea turtle which is the world’s oldest animal, and to be able to take one that was, you know, in peril, so injured, and return it to its ocean home on Earth Day...” says Bette Zirkelbach, the Turtle Hospital’s manager, “...there’s nothing better.”

Zirkelbach adds that, beyond Earth Day, individuals in South Florida can make a difference regarding the environment.

“We are at that sweet spot in time, there’s an awareness,” she says. “I really believe that today with the awareness that every day is Earth Day.”

“People are aware, and being able to return this iconic animal to its ocean home today, it’s got a lot of meaning,” she explains.

The Turtle Hospital is the world’s first veterinary hospital dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. The facility has been rescuing, rehabilitating, and returning turtles to the wild for more than 35 years.

Spring marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season, which traditionally runs from March through the end of October.