MARATHON — A female hawksbill sea turtle airlifted from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital was recovering Saturday and producing eggs, officials said.
The turtle, named Good Hope after the beach in St. Croix where she was discovered, has laid 55 eggs since arriving at the hospital in Marathon on Sept. 1.
Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach said X-rays revealed more eggs were being produced, indicating that the turtle has been responding to antibiotics, wound care and physical therapy.
About 45 eggs deemed "viable" were incubated, nestled in beach sand shipped from St. Croix, she said.
"Good Hope would have laid (eggs) on Good Hope beach in St. Croix, with that St. Croix sand," said Zirkelbach. "And those hatchlings would have come out and the first thing they would have contact with is St. Croix sand."
It can't be determined if the eggs are fertile, however, until the traditional 60-day gestation period ends.
The endangered hawksbill's continued improvement is good news to hospital director Richie Moretti, who founded the veterinary facility dedicated solely to the treatment of sea turtles more than 25 years ago.
"When Good Hope came to the Turtle Hospital, it looked like we might have to amputate her front flippers," Moretti said. "But she's getting stronger and stronger every day."
Good Hope was found severely injured Aug. 24 after Tropical Storm Isaac brushed St. Croix. Officials believe the animal was repeatedly gaffed in the front flippers, perhaps to remove fishing gear.