Homecoming: Massive Sea Turtle Returns to the Ocean After Stint in Rehab

Gabriel the sea turtle spent two months in the rehab facility.

As Florida residents flee their homes as Hurricane Irma looms, one sea turtle is eager to return to his habitat off the Sunshine State Thursday.

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Sabastian the sea turtle was found in July in a debilitated state in the Indian River Lagoon just south of the Sebastian Inlet near Melbourne, Fla.

He was brought to the Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center, where he arrived emaciated and covered in barnacles, algae and leeches.

The center gave him nutritious food, vitamins, antibiotics, and helped clean him up, as well as getting treatment for intestinal parasites. Gabriel even gained 20 pounds.

After his two month stint in rehab, the experts felt it was time for Gabriel to return home to the ocean.

On Thursday morning, staff and volunteers from the center brought Gabriel to a beach in Melbourne and let him crawl back into the water.

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The experts were not concerned about Hurricane Irma’s potential impact and danger to Gabriel.

“Gabriel is a strong, healthy animal,” said Melanie Stadler, the Zoo’s sea turtle program coordinator said in a statement. “Sea turtles have been swimming in our oceans for millions of years and they are more than equipped to deal with this kind of weather.”

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