Large Loggerhead Sea Turtle Heads to Texas After Florida Rehabilitation

Due to her injuries, a loggerhead sea turtle rehabilitated at the Florida Turtle Hospital will now permanently reside at a conservation facility in Texas.

After healing from an injury that impacted her ability to dive, a 230-pound female turtle was flown to Sea Turtle Inc. to live.

Matthew, named after one of the members of her rescue team before they realized she was a female turtle, was found in May 2020. She had been hit by a boat, and suffered injuries to her shell that the hospital staff called “bubble butt syndrome,” leaving her unable to search for her own food. 

Although the goal for the Keys’ Turtle Hospital is for every rescued sea turtle to successfully rehabilitate and return to its ocean home, because of the extent of her injuries, she is unable to be released into the wild. 

Matthew was loaded onto a private plan for a nearly five-hour flight from the Middle Keys to Texas, thanks to a collaboration with the Florida Keys-based rehab center, the Texas wildlife conservation and “Turtles Fly Too” — a nonprofit group where pilots donate their aircraft, fuel, and time to provide emergency transport for endangered species.

Matthew’s hard upper shell, known as a carapace, has been fitted with adherent weights that help the turtle submerge so she can rest comfortably during her time at the Texas center.

The reptile joins other rehabilitated, non-releasable turtle patients at the facility located on the Gulf of Mexico “She will act as an ambassador for her species there at the Texas facility where they see lots of visitors,” said, Bette Zirkelbach, the Turtle Hospital’s general manager, of the loggerhead’s arrival.

The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for over 30 years, and Sea Turtle Inc.’s conservation outreach programs are designed to raise public awareness about sea turtles and the threats to their survival.

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