Just weeks after SeaWorld veterinarians removed a 4 inch-long fishing hook from its throat, the rehabilitated loggerhead turtle was released at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (Gannett, Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today)
A 4 inch-long fishing hook is shown in this x-ray.
By J.D. GALLOP
COCOA BEACH, Fla. -- The chilly, lapping waves didn't stop 5-year-old Dominick Piscitelli from getting as close as possible to the SeaWorld Orlando animal rescue workers gently lowering a loggerhead sea turtle into the ocean.
The young boy cheered along with about 40 other people as the 100-pound marine reptile splashed its flippers against the waves to make it out to sea. It had been rehabilitated after being found with a 4-inch fishing hook lodged in its throat.
"I couldn't believe it had such a big show," said Piscitelli, who watched the release with his mother, Angela, and sister, Gianna, during a visit to Lori Wilson Park here.
SeaWorld veterinarians treated the injured sea turtle after it was found Feb. 26 in a St. Lucie Power Plant intake canal.
Veterinarians operated to remove the J-hook from its throat and allowed it to recover from the injury before arranging to release it back into wild. The turtle also has been tagged with a number and a transponder to help with research should it be recovered in the future, SeaWorld officials said.
"It was a speedy recovery," said Dan Conklin, an aquarium supervisor with SeaWorld, one of several park workers who brought the turtle to Cocoa Beach. "This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of the people out here this morning."
It was the ninth turtle rescued and released back into the wild this year by SeaWorld, which typically treats and releases about 45 sea turtles annually.
Earlier, spectators gathered in the cool morning air Thursday and watched as workers carried the turtle within 30 yards of the ocean in a large white tub.
"Go!" someone in the crowd said excitedly as several children stooped to cheer on the turtle.
Many took photos with cell phones and clapped as the turtle swam out to sea. The sex of the nameless turtle, believed to be about 20 years old, could not be determined. That didn't stop spectators from offering up names: including Joshua, Oliver and Lucky.
Kay Vialpando of Satellite Beach, Fla., was glad veterinarians could help.
"This is beautiful ... It's an incredible thing to witness," Vialpando said. "It's something that was caused by man and it was our responsibility to fix it."