Animal lovers gathered at a Florida beach this week for the release of a sea turtle, nearly two months after it was found tangled in fishing line after ingesting a fish hook.
Rapunzel, a loggerhead sea turtle, was found June 9 off the Bay County Pier by a Panama City resident who called authorities. The reptile was brought to the Gulf World Marine Institute (GWMI) in the nick of time.
“If the fishing line had been left, she would have lost that front [right] flipper and that hook she ingested could have killed her,” Dr. Lydia Staggs of the GWMI told InsideEdition.com.
Rapunzel’s sex is unidentified, but the turtle got its name from the Disney film Tangled, since it was entangled in the fishing line, according to GWMI's standing coordinator, Lauren Albrittain.
Staggs said that in order to remove the fishing hook, the sea creature had to go under general anesthesia and have surgery, which involved an incision in her throat to pull out the hook.
“Unfortunately it’s somewhat of a common problem because lots of sea turtles feed around the piers and fisherman accidentally hook them,” GWMI public relations Coordinator, Sam Tuno, told InsideEdition.com. “Members of the public leave their fishing gear behind and our poor sea turtles get trapped in it.”
After less than two months of care, Rapunzel, who was not fully developed, was sent back into the waters across from the town's Carousel Supermarket on Aug. 2.
In a video posted to the GWMI’s Facebook page, members are seen picking up the turtle from the back of a pick-up truck and escorting Rapunzel across the sand and safely into the water.
Rapunzel pushed off the sand and swam into the water, as staff members and residents applauded.
“We are a small town, but we have an amazing community of supporters,” Tuno said.
Albrittain, the GWMI standing coordinator, says this is their tenth hook ingestion so far this summer and the best part of the job is the moment that turtles and other sea animals are released.
“Our goal is to take care of them as much as possible and educate people on what to do so it doesn’t keep happening,” she said.
Albrittain advises the public to remember that they are sharing the waters with other sea animals.
“It’s a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and if you see a problem, please contact the local authorities," she said.
The GWMI recently created symbolic adoption of sea turtles, a campaign dedicated to raising funds toward the care of the animals.