Several hundred onlookers watched on Marathon’s Sombrero Beach as staff from the Keys-based Turtle Hospital released “TJ Sharp,” a 65-pound juvenile sea turtle that was rescued in February. The endangered reptile had been discovered floating offshore, unable to dive and visibly affected by fibropapillomatosis, a condition that causes cauliflower-like tumors and affects sea turtles around the world.
TJ’s condition upon arrival at the Turtle Hospital required surgical removal of the tumors and treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, fluids, vitamins and a nourishing diet of greens and mixed seafood.
“Sea turtles are the oldest animal known to man — to be able to take a sea turtle, rehabilitate it and return it to its ocean home on Earth Day, it’s just an amazing day,” Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach said.
Zirkelbach said that although Earth Day is recognized once a year, humans can take daily steps to protect marine resources and help ensure the survival of sea turtles.
“What people need to do to make every day Earth Day is to reduce single-use plastics, keep trash out of our oceans and help keep our planet clean,” Zirkelbach added.
Keys visitors and residents are commemorating Earth Day’s significance with outdoor activities throughout the weekend, including Mote Marine Laboratory’s 10th Annual Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration on Saturday in Key West.
Here are some facts about green sea turtles from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
- Green sea turtles are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle, with adults weighing 250 to 400 pounds.
- Their lifespan is unknown but is estimated to be 70 years or more.
- Their name doesn't come from their greenish shells. Instead, it's because the reptiles have green fat from their diet of seagrasses and algae.
Val Lick contributed to this report.