A rare leatherback sea turtle weighing 500 pounds was recently saved in South Carolina after it was discovered to be stranded.
Only a handful of these creatures, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds as adults, have been treated in rehabilitation centers in the United States. They are a very rare and endangered creature. In fact, this was the first case of one being recovered alive in South Carolina.
“I can hardly believe it. They don’t strand alive very often,” said Kelly Thorvalson, manager of the Sea Turtle Rescue Program at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, according to Reuters.
Click through the slideshow to learn more and see more pictures of this incredible animal.
Turtle Stranded Near Georgetown, SC
The gigantic leatherback sea turtle was initially spotted on Yawkey-South Island near Georgetown, South Carolina. Yawkey-South Island is a small barrier island measuring 3.5 miles in length.
The Rescue Took Hours
It took five rescuers over four hours of diligent work to save the turtle. The creature’s massive size and weight made things difficult in the sandy conditions.
“It was logistically difficult,” a South Carolina state wildlife biologist told Reuters. “We had a turtle stretcher on a board and we all did our best to lift it. It was very lethargic and sick looking.”
According to National Geographic, the leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world. A mature adult can reach seven feet in length and weigh over 2,000 pounds. The rescued turtle is believed to be a young female.
They are also the only sea turtle that do not have a hard shell. You can still see the shape of their shell, but it is not a bony structure like other sea turtles.
Quick Release Planned
The rescued turtle was given fluids to help it recover more quickly. The leatherback sea turtle does not cope well with captivity and the rescuers were anxious to return the reptile to the water as quickly as possible.
After less than a week in recovery, the turtle was ready to return to the sea. Aquarium workers worked together to get the turtle back to the beach.
Free At Last!
The turtle, nicknamed Yawkey after the island it was stranded on, made its way back into the surf. Judged to be only 10-15 years old, it is hoped that Yawkey will go on to live a long and healthy life.