A male giant black leatherback turtle rescued by New England Aquarium officials on Thursday morning was released back into the Atlantic Ocean this weekend after being treated for “dehydration, trauma and shock,” according to the aquarium.
The endangered turtle, which is seven feet long and weighs 667 pounds — underweight for a species that can weigh up to 1,500 pounds — suffered a partial flipper amputation that aquarium officials attributed to a potential run-in with a boat mooring or lobster pot line because the wound was so straight. Though the wound had already begun to heal, leading doctors to suspect it happened earlier in the season, the turtle was discovered in distress on a mud flat in Truro near sundown on Wednesday by the Mass Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay.
The Mass Audobon staff, along with staff and a dolphin stranding transport cart from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and local volunteers, moved the turtle to an IFAW vehicle on Thursday morning and turned him over to the aquarium, which took over his care.
Giant black leatherback turtles are not only endangered but impossible to keep in captivity because, as open-sea turtles, they are unaccustomed to obstructions they cannot navigate around and thus often run into tank walls and injure themselves. During his short aquarium stay, the turtle was strapped into a custom-design harness to prevent that from happening.
The turtle, which likely migrated to Massachusetts waters in June to feed on its favorite jellyfish, will migrate south shortly for the winter if it survives its amputation and infection.
Watch the video of the turtle’s release, uploaded by the AP on September, 23, 2012: