Bovenizer was ready to make a beeline for the ocean before his flippers even touched sand.
The adult male loggerhead turtle was lifted out of a trailer and set on the shore at Juno Beach during his Wednesday morning release from treatment at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
The turtle has been at the center since April 14th. Typically, its turtle patients are female, as they tend to stay closer to shore. Bovenizer, though, arrived during nesting season, when adult male turtles swim closer to shore to fraternize with their female counterparts.
The loggerhead was being treated for spirorchiids, parasites that director of research and rehabilitation Dr. Charles Manire said are similar to heartworms in cats or dogs.
They’re parasites that get in the bloodstream and make the blood vessels thicken, blocking the turtle’s bloodflow.
“This has been diagnosed numerous times in necropsies on dead turtles,” Manire said, “but has never been diagnosed in a live turtle before.”
Bovenizer was one of about 20 turtles currently being treated at the center’s hospital. Manire said their official capacity is around 15 turtles, but they’ve managed to find room for nearly twice that when necessary.
“I have a hard time saying no when a turtle needs help,” he said. “If it means going into my bathtub at home, or something like that, we usually try to find space for them.”
Loggerhead Marinelife Center has three types of turtles as patients at the moment, said communications manager Carla Mroz.
There are loggerheads, like Bovenizer, and also Kemp’s Ridley turtles and green sea turtles – herbivore “lawn mowers of the sea,” said Mroz.
In the sea just across from the center, it’s been a busy nesting year, and the water is full of adult female turtles ready to lay their eggs.
“It’s good news that we’re having a good year,” said Manire. “But unfortunately, it puts the population at risk.”
He said with so many in the water, center staff has seen a lot more adult turtles hit and killed by boats. That’s a particular loss for sea turtles, given that an estimated one in every thousand or more eggs laid becomes a turtle who makes it to adulthood.
Manire said they’ve been working with boaters to make sure they’re aware of the turtles. To reach out-of-towners who might otherwise miss the message, he said they’ve been working with marinas and rental places to make sure they get information to everyone going out on the water.