Florida Keys

Malnourished sea turtles, encrusted with barnacles, sent to turtle hospital in the Keys

Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, lifts a juvenile green sea turtle encrusted with barnacles Monday, March 11, 2019, at the hospital in Marathon. The reptile is among 22 green sea turtles that arrived in the Florida Keys Monday evening from two Central Florida-based facilities overwhelmed with lethargic greens that have washed up on Atlantic Ocean beaches. Veterinarians are not certain why the reptiles are sick.
Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, lifts a juvenile green sea turtle encrusted with barnacles Monday, March 11, 2019, at the hospital in Marathon. The reptile is among 22 green sea turtles that arrived in the Florida Keys Monday evening from two Central Florida-based facilities overwhelmed with lethargic greens that have washed up on Atlantic Ocean beaches. Veterinarians are not certain why the reptiles are sick. Florida Keys News Bureau

Veterinarians in the Florida Keys are caring for 22 badly malnourished green sea turtles found stranded on the beach in Central Florida over this week.

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission drove the reptiles wrapped in towels and placed in plastic tubs to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon from the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne and the Volusia County Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, said Andy Newman of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

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A Turtle Hospital technician administers oxygen to a juvenile green sea turtle Monday, March 11, 2019, at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital in Marathon. The barnacle-encrusted reptile is among 22 green sea turtles that arrived in the Florida Keys Monday evening from Central Florida-based facilities overwhelmed with lethargic greens that have washed up on Atlantic Ocean beaches. Bob Care Florida Keys News Bureau

Several of the turtles were encrusted with barnacles, which Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital, said is an indicator of severe malnourishment. Other facilities in Florida specializing in caring for turtles are at capacity.

“The Turtle Hospital is receiving these turtles to help them because we do have the capacity for these turtles and we have the staffing, and fortunately, the resources to rehabilitate them,” Zirkelbach said in a statement.

The Turtle Hospital is the world’s first state-licensed veterinarian sea turtle hospital and has treated more than 2,000 sick or injured reptiles, Newman said.

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Juvenile green sea turtles await initial examination Monday, March 11, 2019, at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital in Marathon. The reptiles are among 22 green sea turtles that arrived in the Florida Keys Monday evening from Central Florida-based facilities. Bob Care Florida Keys News Bureau

Zirkelbach said it’s not known why the turtles beached themselves or why they’ve become malnourished, but it fits what has become a yearly springtime pattern.

“There’s no one smoking gun that veterinarians have found that’s bringing these turtles in,” she said. “It may be weather patterns, it may be the currents or the winds that are washing them ashore, maybe the weaker ones.”

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