You may want to read this story well after you’ve digested dinner. But Florida Keys veterinarians are calling this sea turtle rescue an amazing story.
Shelmore the sea turtle survived her brush with death from ingesting a two-foot-long eel.
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The 112-pound loggerhead sea turtle was released back to sea in Islamorada on Saturday after recovering from surgery. Doctors at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon had removed the eel from its body cavity, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau.
In September, veterinarians at the Turtle Hospital performed a three-hour procedure to remove the goldspotted eel from the critically ill turtle rescued off the Keys by the Coast Guard.
Initially, X-ray images had led the vets to believe the mass was a severely infected turtle shell gland. They soon discovered that the eel had fought back while inside the turtle.
They didn’t expect Shelmore to live.
And they likened what they saw to a horror movie, or the Animal Planet show, “Monsters Inside Me.”
“It had chewed through her intestine and it was alive when she ate it and escaped through a hole in her intestines and died in her body cavity,” said Dr. Brooke Burkhalter, of the Turtle Hospital.
“The amount of damage and infection that was in her body cavity was insurmountable, but she pulled through and it’s a testament to the strength that these creatures really have.”
Said Burkhalter: “It’s by far one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.”
Sea turtles don’t typically eat eels, so why the creature became lodged inside the sea turtle remains a mystery to hospital staff.
The Turtle Hospital opened more than 31 years ago as the world’s first state-licensed veterinary sea turtle hospital. The facility, equipped with three turtle ambulances for patient transport, has treated and rehabilitated more than 1,700 injured sea turtles and assisted scores of hatchlings gone astray after exiting their nests.