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While Zoo Miami prepares for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Sea Turtle Hospital scheduled for July 6th, a huge female loggerhead sea turtle that was likely injured by a shark, has necessitated emergency care to help save the life of this threatened species.
On May 22nd, Zoo Miami received a call from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), that a large female loggerhead turtle had been rescued from the Port St. Lucie Power Plant with a severe wound to its left front flipper, leaving only exposed bone and torn flesh, the apparent victim of a shark attack.
Because Zoo Miami’s newly constructed Sea Turtle Hospital had recently passed inspection and received its permits to accept sick and injured sea turtles, it was decided to transfer the injured animal to the zoo for treatment and rehabilitation.
Upon arrival, the massive reptile weighed 388 pounds and was missing most of her left front flipper except for the exposed humerus bone. The turtle also had scars on its shell that indicated it had possibly been struck by a boat and bitten by another shark earlier in its life. In addition, after a close examination that included ultrasound, it was discovered that she was laden with eggs.
The Animal Health staff immediately stabilized the turtle in one of several special tanks designed to house sea turtles during treatment and rehabilitation to prepare them for release back to the wild. Once stabilized, she was given fluids as well as vitamins and food that included squid and crab.
On Monday, the turtle was carefully transported from the recovery tank to a special pen that was filled with sand in hopes that she would be encouraged to deposit her eggs so that they could possibly be salvaged. In order to assist in this endeavor, she was given calcium and oxytocin to help stimulate her egg-laying. By Tuesday morning, she had deposited over 100 eggs which were carefully collected so that they could be transported by the Miami-Dade Parks Sea Turtle Conservation Program staff with the approval of FWC and inserted into a man-made nest for incubation. Though some eggs were initially deposited in water and unlikely to hatch, there is hope that some of the eggs are fertile and will successfully hatch.