On Tuesday, January 29, the CMA Rescue Team received several calls regarding a large loggerhead turtle that had been floating in the Intracoastal Waterway at Indian Rocks Beach. The Rescue Team had received calls about this same turtle in the weeks leading up to the rescue, but had been unable to successfully intervene. Previous attempts were unsuccessful due to being unable to locate the animal once out on the water.
Reports indicated that the turtle was lethargic, only lifting its head to breathe. Observers stated that the turtle did not submerge or appear to make any effort to flee when approached by vessels. Pictures received by the Rescue Team showed that the turtle was heavily encrusted with epibiota (barnacles and algae).
Using a kayak, the turtle was safely escorted to a nearby boat ramp so that Rescue Team members could gain access to the animal. Once in the shallow water, CMA personnel were successful in securing the turtle into the stretcher and lifting it out of the water. Rescue Team personnel carried the stretcher up the boat ramp and placed the turtle on a mat inside of the turtle van for transport to Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Once the turtle was taken back to CMA for triage it was determined to be a male with a straight carapace length of 36.5 inches. The adult loggerhead weighed approximately 205 lbs., which is larger than Bowser, the previous adult loggerhead at CMA, but underweight for a turtle of that size. He was given the name Kirby by the Sea Turtle Rehab Team.
Kirby is recovering and in stable condition now. He has been eating well, increasing his total diet, and swimming in a larger sea turtle rehab pool.
Guests can see Kirby when they visit the marine animal hospital and view him through the ICU hallway at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can also watch Kirby on his live webcam. Our goal is to return Kirby back into the wild when he fully recovers and is cleared for release.
UPDATE: Kirby was successfully released on May 14, 2019, at Clearwater Beach! Follow his journey on our live sea turtle tracking map!
All marine turtle footage taken in Florida was obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to marine turtles. Footage was acquired while conducting authorized conservation activities pursuant to FWC MTP-19-172.