Last May, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation spotted a weak male loggerhead turtle floating in San Carlos Bay near Fort Myers, Florida. He was sick and covered in barnacles. 

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They recovered the emaciated turtle from the water and brought him to SeaWorld for evaluation and treatment. To date, SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Team has rescued more than 18,000 sick, injured or orphaned animals. 

Upon this loggerhead’s arrival at the rescue facility, he weighed just 269 pounds. Loggerheads are the largest of all hard-shelled turtles, and the biggest specimens can top 1,000 pounds. These beautiful animals have enormous heads, strong jaws and a reddish-brown carapace. 

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Loggerheads are carnivores, and they’ll eat a variety of foods from conchs to crabs to  seaweed. This particular loggerhead had swallowed pieces of shell fish, which then impacted his gut and prevented him from eating. 

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According to a SeaWorld representative, “Shellfish species are a normal and significant part of the loggerhead sea turtle diet but occasionally ingested trash will prevent the passage of the shell material. After initial treatment, this loggerhead was able to get his digestive system back on track and began eating again.” 

Over the next month months, SeaWorld’s animal team nursed the loggerhead back to 320-pound health with daily care and nursing. Then, he was returned to the wild off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida. Loggerhead turtles can live up to 50 years – so here’s a long and happy life at sea! 

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Pictured, l to r: Dan Conklin, Tom Nuthall, Patrick Stewart. Photo:Matt Marriott, SeaWorld

Did you know that sea turtles are highly migratory creatures? Read this blog post on tracking wild turtles.

For more sea turtles, tune in to Sea Turtle Odyssey, Thursday January 6th at 10 PM et/pt on Nat Geo Wild!

Video Preview: “Secret Lives of Sea Turtles”



Photo Credits: SeaWorld