Rehabilitation Gives Endangered Green Sea Turtle Second Chance at Life

Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s staff and volunteer crew nurtured an endangered green sea turtle back to health, releasing the 21.23 pound juvenile turtle back into the ocean on its 62nd day at the non-profit sea turtle hospital. A crowd of over 500 gathered on Juno Beach to cheer on “Cletus,” who was found by biologists on November 21, 2010 near the Port St. Lucie Power Plant’s intake canal. Cletus was brought immediately to the Gordon & Patricia Gray Veterinary Hospital at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) where it received rehabilitation treatment for head trauma and several corneal ulcerations. The sea turtle’s treatment plan included preliminary blood work, x-rays, MRIs, and CAT Scans as well as antibiotic injections, topical antibiotics, fluids to resolve dehydration, nutrition, vitamins and medication for pain.

Hundreds poured through the doors of LMC on January 22, 2011 to watch LMC staff and volunteers prepare Cletus for release into the wild. Kids of all ages stared wide-eyed at the endangered species while it gracefully swam its last few laps around a rectangular rehabilitation tank. On command, LMC volunteer Sandra Wallace, of Jupiter, carefully reached into the sea turtle’s “hospital bed,” grabbing it out as the now-energetic turtle playfully splashed onlookers. Wallace thought helping the center release its first patient of the year would be an unforgettable way to celebrate her 31st birthday.

Hospital Coordinator Melissa Ranly worked with Wallace and a handful of other volunteers to ready the sea turtle for its trip home. The group took some pre-release measurements, verified the turtle’s microchip and tag numbers, and delicately scrubbed algae off of Cletus with a tooth brush and sponge. Ranly said the information is put into an international database. “If Cletus is ever found again, people will know exactly where the animal was treated and how large it was at that point,” said Ranly. She added, “It gives us a lot of really good scientific data about how fast sea turtles are growing out in the wild as well.”

After Ranly’s team collected pre-release data, they carried Cletus in a plastic container through Loggerhead Park, across A-1-A and down to the beach, where they met the crowd which now lined two sides of an aisle leading straight to the ocean. After removing Cletus from the container, Wallace carried the sea turtle down a final stretch of sand, pacing slowly and carefully as onlookers cheered goodbye. Cletus eyed the calm, warm water and instantly squirmed at the sight of home.

Energy and enthusiasm abounded as Wallace kneeled to the sand to place Cletus down gently at the shoreline. Instinctively, Cletus crawled toward the waves and after a few moments the sea turtle had disappeared, embarking on its next ocean adventure.

Cletus is just one of the 124 sea turtles cared for by LMC in 2010. Current and past LMC patients can be tracked at http://www.marinelife.org. To learn more about what you can do to help LMC in its mission to promote conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles, visit the website or call 561.627.8280.

If you took photos or video at the Cletus release, e-mail them to me at bmiller@marinelife.org. We’d love to feature them! Also, please share your comments below to let us know what you thought!

If you want more on Cletus, check out the following links!
PBG Lifestyle Magazine Video – Thanks so much for shooting this fun video!!
Palm Beach Post Article – Journalist Laura Green shares her perspective on Cletus’ turtle release
Palm Beach Post Photo Gallery – Awesome pics by Palm Beach Post photographer Gwen Berry! You can view a slide show or purchase your favorites.
LMC’s Facebook Album of Cletus’ Release – Pictures taken by Victoria and Nikki

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