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.
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.
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.”