sea turtle

Massive Sea Turtle Laden With Eggs Treated For Shark Bite at Zoo Miami

A massive female loggerhead sea turtle laden with eggs was transported to Zoo Miami for emergency care after a severe injury believed to be caused by a shark bite

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A massive female loggerhead sea turtle laden with eggs was transported to Zoo Miami for emergency care after a severe injury believed to be caused by a shark bite.

On May 22, Zoo Miami received a call from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regarding a large female loggerhead turtle that had been rescued from the Port St. Lucie Power Plant with a severe wound to its left front flipper, leaving only exposed bone and torn flesh.

The approximately 50-year-old sea turtle was transferred to Zoo Miami’s newly constructed Sea Turtle Hospital, which had just recently passed inspection and received its permits to accept sick and injured sea turtles.

Courtesy of Ron Magill, Zoo Miami

Upon arrival, the 388-pound reptile was missing most of her left front flipper except for the exposed humerus bone, according to Zoo Miami. She also had older scars on her shell that indicated she had possibly been struck by a boat and bitten by another shark earlier in her life.

After a close examination and ultrasound, staff discovered that the turtle — which they named "Baymax" — was laden with eggs.

Courtesy of Ron Magill, Zoo Miami

The Animal Health staff immediately stabilized her in one of several special tanks designed to house sea turtles during treatment and rehabilitation to prepare them for release back to the wild.

Once stabilized, Baymax was given fluids as well as vitamins and food that included squid and crab.

On Monday, she was carefully transported from the recovery tank to a special sand-filled pen and given calcium and oxytocin to help stimulate her egg-laying.

Courtesy of Ron Magill, Zoo Miami

By Tuesday morning, Baymax had deposited over 100 eggs which were carefully collected so that they could be transported by the Miami-Dade Parks Sea Turtle Conservation Program staff with the approval of FWC and inserted into a man-made nest for incubation.

Though some eggs were initially deposited in water and therefore unlikely to hatch, there is still hope that some of the eggs are fertile and will hatch successfully.  

Following several exams, including blood collection, x-rays and an ultrasound, Baymax was prepared for surgery.

The ultrasound exam revealed that she still had dozens of eggs within her and some of them emerged during the surgical procedure. The new eggs were carefully placed in a bin of sand to be transported like the others.

Courtesy of Ron Magill, Zoo Miami

The main purpose of the surgery was to remove the exposed damaged bone and treat the amputated limb in a way that would help prevent infection and provide Baymax with "a more stable path towards healing," the zoo said in a statement.

It is not uncommon for sea turtles to lose a limb to sharks or boat strikes, however, according to Zoo Miami, many adjust and continue to lead productive lives after losing the limb as long as they don’t succumb to blood loss or infection.

The zoo says that is their hope for Baymax.

Courtesy of Ron Magill, Zoo Miami

The entire procedure took several hours and was led by Zoo Miami Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Marisa Bezjian and assisted by Zoo Miami Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Gwen Myers.

The exposed bone was successfully removed and the surrounding wound was cleaned and treated.

After recovering in a special stall in the zoo’s main hospital, Baymax will be transferred back to her tank at the Sea Turtle Hospital where she will be closely monitored for several weeks until the staff feels that she is healthy enough to be returned to the wild.

Though the procedure went well, the zoo says Baymax still has several challenges ahead of her and that a full recovery is far from guaranteed.

Courtesy of Ron Magill, Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami is currently preparing for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Sea Turtle Hospital that treated Baymax, which is scheduled for July 6.

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