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Friday, September 16, 2011

Return to the wild: Sara the loggerhead turtle heads back out to sea after being shot with a 4ft spear

By Leon Watson

She's back where she belongs - the clear blue waters off Florida Keys.

But no-one could blame her if she was so nervous she went into her shell.

Sara the ocean-going turtle was, after all, shot through the head by a thug with a 4ft spear.

Easy does it: Staff and volunteers from The Turtle Hospital, including director Richie Moretti, (lower left) release the loggerhead turtle back into the ocean

But since then the lucky loggerhead has made a miracle recovery. And yesterday morning she was set free having spent six weeks being nursed back to health.

Stricken and motionless, Sara was found floating off Florida Keys last month by Charlie and Nicolas Borg.

With the spear jutting out of her, at first the father and son thought the reptile was dead.

But after seeing the turtle struggle for breath, they rushed her to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

There, vet Doug Mader, a reptile expert, removed the spear and against the odds Sara survived.

She had been lucky. The weapon had just missed her eye and glottis, a valve that allows turtles to breathe without their lungs filling with water.

Dr Doug Mader said: 'Oh, my gosh, if the spear went a quarter-inch in any other direction, it would be dead.'

Recovery: Richie Moretti (right) and other staff members at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, perform a final examination of Sara

Conservationist Rich Moretti, who runs the Turtle Hospital, believes the attack was deliberate.

The medical team deduced Sara had been shot from above, probably from a boat.

Mr Moretti said: 'Everyone in the Keys was absolutely offended that someone would come down and do that to one of our turtles.'

He added he does not believe the injury was caused by a local because the spear used was much larger than what locals use.

The medical team also think Sara had been shot from above, probably from a boat.

Jo Ellen Basile, manager of The Turtle Hospital, said: 'She was very healthy except for the spear.

'We just had to watch her to make sure her jaw worked properly and that she was able to eat.'

When she was able to eat on her own, Sara, whose weight had plummeted, was ready to go home.

Her doctors think she is a young turtle, between 15 to 20 years old.

'They don't reach maturity until they're 20, so we can only estimate,' said Basile.

The loggerhead was released near the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon.

A $16,000 reward has been offered for anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.



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