MARATHON, Florida Keys — 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 Thursday.
Onlookers gathered to applaud the successful release of “Sparb,” a 125-pound sub-adult sea turtle that was rescued in late January 2021 after being discovered floating offshore, unable to dive, with severe wounds and a missing front right flipper.
Typically the sea turtles admitted to the facility 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.
When the endangered reptile 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 – to be able to take one that was, you know, in peril, so injured, and return it to its ocean home on Earth Day,” said Bette Zirkelbach, the Turtle Hospital’s manager. “There’s nothing better.”
Zirkelbach added that, beyond Earth Day, individuals can make a difference regarding the environment.
“We are at that sweet spot in time, there’s an awareness,” she said. “I really believe that today with 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 added.
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.