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Rare Sea Turtle Rescued By Mote After Swallowing Balloon; 'It's Extremely Common'
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SARASOTA, Florida -- An endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) has been brought to Mote Marine Laboratory's Sea Turtle Hospital after it swallowed a balloon - an episode that we hope will remind residents and visitors to stow their trash carefully.

The 3.3-pound young turtle with a carapace 8.7 inches long washed up on a sandbar near the south end of Lido Key on Tuesday, July 14, with what appeared to be fishing line hanging from its mouth. Concerned swimmers called Mote biologists, who brought the Kemp's ridley to Mote's Sea Turtle Hospital.

Before removing the pink line, which had scraped skin from the turtle's face, Mote staff used radiographs to verify that the turtle had not swallowed a fishing hook. Instead, they found remnants of a black balloon.

"Balloons can look like jellyfish or squid - things sea turtles like to eat," said Senior Biologist Kristen Mazzarella of Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. "It's extremely common to find sea turtles that have swallowed balloons, fishing hooks, monofilament lines and other dangerous objects."

Swallowing trash can injure or kill sea turtles, all of which are considered endangered or threatened under federal law. Kemp's ridleys, among the smallest and the rarest of the world's seven sea turtle species, have visited Sarasota County only a handful of times to nest, but Mote's Sea turtle hospital has rehabilitated dozens because of illness, disorientation and other problems.

Mote's new Kemp's ridley patient, nicknamed Anakin, is receiving fluids, antibiotics and food at the Sea Turtle Hospital. The turtle, which arrived anemic and dehydrated, is being closely monitored for any additional health problems. It will be released into wild if appropriate.

Anakin is Mote's first turtle with a bellyful of balloon, but perhaps not the last.

"We pick up a lot of balloons wrapped in seaweed from local beaches," said Mazzarella of Mote's Sea Turtle Patrol - a team of staff, interns and volunteers who monitor sea turtle nesting every day on 35 miles of Sarasota county beaches during nesting season, May through October.

"To protect sea turtles and other wildlife, we recommend that people dispose of trash in the appropriate containers and recycle it when possible," Mazzarella said. "If you see trash washing up on the beach, pick it up before the tide takes it back out to sea."

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

8 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

I am glad turtle is OK!
   comment# 1   - SueCart · U.S.A · Jul 21, 2009 @ 10:49am

I am a regular snorkeler in Akumal bay, where there is a population of green/hawksbill sea turtles. I regularly pick plastic, fishing lines etc. out of the water & I can contest to the easy confusion between plastic & jellyfish as I very nearly while collecting plastic picked a jellyfish out of the water. We are very blessed to be graced with the presence of such a wonderful creature. Is recycling & sensible disposal of waste really that difficult?
   comment# 2   - Jane Lloyd · Akumal, Mexico · Jul 21, 2009 @ 5:50pm

I always love Sea Turtles, but this one? MAN!!! Such a beautiful creature.
   comment# 3   - Mark DM L · Flushing, NY, USA · Jul 21, 2009 @ 10:55pm

People make me sick, dropping rubbish, not careing, no thought to what harm they can do. All it needs is a little care, what ever you take on a beach or where ever, take YOUR REMAINS HOME AND DISPOSE. Thanks to all the people who do care. Sue
   comment# 4   - suebland · England · Jul 22, 2009 @ 12:30am

People make me feel sick when they chuck rubbish into the ocean cause they will kill the sea creatures that live in it.
   comment# 5   - Shanice Moore · Cairns · Aug 26, 2010 @ 7:58pm

Along with picking up rubbish on beaches, WE SHOULD NOT USE BALLOONS,EVER, FOR ANY REASON. They create suffering for turtles, sea birds and marine mammals. And not all of the animals who ingest balloons are so lucky to be helped by the good people at this hospital. Many just suffer for a long time then die. Is that worth using balloons???
   comment# 6   - Teresa Wagner · Carmel, CA · Apr 2, 2012 @ 12:25pm

Balloon releases are harmful to the environment, to wildlife and to domestic animals, as I outline in this article: http://birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=1490 Sometimes, the organisers are told that the balloons are biodegradable - but, as my article shows, even biodegradable balloons can last - and do harm - for a year or more. The Guinness Book of World Records no longer recognize balloon release records "precisely because of environmental concerns". Please ask people not to release balloons.
   comment# 7   - Andy Mabbett · Birmingham, England · Apr 2, 2012 @ 2:02pm

A black balloon? Those are typically bought as a joke for someone "getting up in years" or celebrating an "over-the-hill" birthday.......like someone just hitting the big 4-0. You would think they would have a little more common sense or a few more brain cells, at the very least. Come on people!!! Don't use balloons for ANY ocassion and recycle, recycle, recycle!! Thank goodness for organizations and hospitals like this one and and for caring, concerned and AWARE people around the world !!!!
   comment# 8   - Gina · Leasburg, NC · Apr 5, 2012 @ 7:11am
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