Loggerhead sea turtle gaining weight, strength at Florida Aquarium’s rehabilitation center

Hillsborough County

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – A sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle’s rehabilitation is going swimmingly at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach.

“Jupiter” arrived at the center from Volusia County shortly after it opened in January.

According to Senior Staff Veterinarian Ari Fustukjian, he arrived in pretty bad shape.

“He came in, very, very skinny, almost comatose. We’d be treating him pretty intensively for the past several months. He’s finally off treatment, we’re just working on getting some weight back on and trying to strengthen him up,” Fustukjian said.

Jupiter has put on about 10 lbs in recent months. He’s weighing in at a hefty 76 lbs. Adult loggerhead sea turtles can weigh up to 253 lbs, according to National Geographic.

“He’s really filled out quite a bit. He’s able to swim a lot more strongly now. He definitely puts up more of a fight whenever we work with him. We have to be a lot more careful in handling him than when he first came in he would just sort of sit there,” Fustukjian said.

Jupiter received an exam from Fustukjian and other veterinarians on Friday.

He was then moved into the rehabilitation center’s deep-dive pool.

Fustukjian said the center is important not just for turtles in the Tampa Bay area, but for turtles around the state who need help, like Jupiter. 

“We haven’t had much in the way of stuff here locally in the last couple months, but certainly out on the east coast in late winter, early spring, they were getting a lot of turtles in following cold-stunning events. So Florida Fish and Wildlife and the Sea Turtle Stranding Network know that we have the capacity,” he said. 

The Florida Aquarium has cared for a total of 14 turtles since the center opened in January. Fustukjian said without the new space in Apollo Beach, the aquarium could only have cared for eight to 10 turtles within an entire year.

“We’re really able to participate and collaborate [with other facilities] now,” he said.

“Whether we’re getting animals here locally, if we have a local cold-stunning event or red tide, we can take turtles right here in the Bay area, but if we have to, we can take turtles from anywhere in the state that has a need for it.”

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