Big Bel, a loggerhead sea turtle found stranded near Fort Myers last August, has finished her rehab and was sent back into the wild Friday.
When they found her, she was in pretty bad shape. She was missing part of her front flipper, and most of a rear flipper.
She was also covered in 22 pounds of growth, mostly algae and barnacles.
"She just really did well. Continued to gain strength and weight, we were able to put her in one of our medical pools, which we like to do for any turtle of that size, " explained Connie Murk, an animal care specialist.
Mote Marine's Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital had been treating the turtle since November. She was found on August 26th of last year, stranded off Fort Myers with possible pneumonia.
She was initially picked up by the C.R.O.W. Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility on Sanibel.The turtle was believed to be suffering from Lethargic Loggerhead Syndrome.
On Friday, workers from the rehab hospital went to Lido Beach to return Big Bel to the waters.
She weighs 214 pounds, so it was not an easy task.
About eight workers carried her down the beach and gingerly put her in at the shore line.
Even with her damaged flippers, she quickly got into the water.
"Sea turtles are amazing creatures. they can go out and survive in situations like that, really unimpeded. You saw how strong she walked herself down in to the water. So obviously that is not a hindrance to her survival," Murk said.
They say sea turtles can do well in the wild even when they're missing full flippers.
It was a big day for Big Bel but also for the workers and volunteers that cared for her the last four months.
"It's an amazing experience, each one matters. That's why we're rehabbers, so to see them come through the process of near death, and watch them go back out there, it's amazing, it's a special day, " said Lynne Byrd, medical care coordinator for Mote Marine.
Big Bel does not have a tracker on her. But workers did tag her flipper, so if she is ever stranded again or nests where researchers find her, or even if she does not survive her environment, they will be able to document it.
Mote's Sea Turtle Rehab Hospital has been treating sick turtles since 1995. They have treated more than 400 sea turtles.
For more information on the turtle rehab hospital:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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