Past the stingray tank and next to the flamingos sat five neon green kiddie pools holding five green sea turtles.
A crowd of kids in blue T-shirts crowded around the turtles, posing with a banner that read “Have a safe trip home!” Miami Seaquarium staff spritzed the turtles with water to keep them cool while the air-conditioned truck backed into place.
After up to three months of rehab, the five young turtles were released Wednesday.
Two, Trisha and Jagger, will be released in Boca Raton and Melbourne Beach, respectively. The other three were guided into the surf at Bill Baggs Cape Florida state park as crowds of beachgoers cheered and took pictures. The trio — Presley, Springsteen and Clapton — were brought to the Seaquarium because of fishing hook wounds.
The hook on Presley was dangerously near his throat, said Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Maya Rodriguez. She pointed to the hollow between her neck and shoulder, “it was stuck in his thoracic inlet.”
“It’s a very tricky area,” she said. It’s close to a lot of blood vessels and the turtle’s heart, making surgery painstaking.
The sea turtles stayed in rehab until vets were sure they could eat, digest and swim properly. Before the beach release, all five were dive tested in a deep pool at the Seaquarium.
As the turtles dove into the water off Baggs, they chose which direction to head, the Atlantic Ocean or Biscayne Bay. Thanks to the microchips embedded into their flippers, researchers around the world will be able to find out what becomes of these turtles — unless they get caught on more garbage.
“People don’t think much about their trash,” Rodriguez said. “But that hook is food for some animal.”