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Rehabilitated sea turtle ‘Sheldon’ released off Florida Keys

MARATHON, FLORIDA (AP) – Just in time for sea turtle mating season in the Florida Keys, a rehabilitated male loggerhead turtle was released on Friday off Pigeon Key.

Sheldon, named by his United States (US) Coast Guard rescuers, was discovered earlier this month near the Old Seven Mile Bridge. The 105-kilogramme reptile was rehabilitated at the Keys-based Turtle Hospital after being found entangled in crab trap line.

“It’s mating season in the Florida Keys, it’s important to get this massive male turtle back out to sea so that he can begin mating and help preserve the species,” Turtle Hospital general manager Bette Zirkelbach said.

Based on his size and the circumference of his head, Zirkelbach estimates Sheldon is at least 50 years old, well into his prime as a sexually reproductive male.

Treatment at the turtle rescue facility included wound care, antibiotics and a diet of mixed seafood. Loggerheads have received federal protection ever since they were listed as threatened in 1978 under the Endangered Species Act.

Before being released, Sheldon was fitted with a satellite transmitter tag by research scientists from the Summerland Key-based Mote Marine Laboratory. Sheldon’s tagging illustrates the importance of being able to see how these turtles are doing once they are released back into the wild, since males don’t return to beaches where they emerged as hatchlings, a Mote official said.

The public can track Sheldon’s movements online.

Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital personnel prod Sheldon, a male loggerhead sea turtle, into the water. PHOTO: AP