Hawksbill sea turtle airlifted from the U.S. Virgin Islands to hospital in Marathon

MARATHON, Florida Keys -- - MARATHON, Florida Keys -- Staff at the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys said Friday that an endangered female hawksbill sea turtle -- airlifted from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the hospital in Marathon -- is not only recovering, but is continuing to produce eggs.
"Good Hope," as the reptile was named after the beach in St. Croix where it was discovered severely injured, laid her 55th egg Friday. Found more than a month ago, the turtle arrived at the Keys hospital Sept. 1.
Viable eggs are being incubated, nestled in beach sand shipped from St. Crox. Officials say they can't determine if the eggs are fertile until the traditional 60-day gestation period ends.

"Good Hope would have laid (eggs) on Good Hope beach in St. Croix, with that St. Croix sand," said hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach. "And those hatchlings would have come out and the first thing they would have contact with is St. Croix sand.

"So we want to keep it as close to nature as possible and give them (the eggs and possible hatchlings) the best chance for survival," she said.

Zirkelbach said x-rays revealed more eggs are being produced, which she believes helps to confirm that the turtle is responding to antibiotics, wound care and physical therapy.

"When Good Hope came to the Turtle Hospital, it looked like we might have to amputate her front flippers," said hospital founder and director Richie Moretti. "But she's been responding to antibiotics and good wound care and a lot of physical therapy and she's getting stronger and stronger, one day at a time."

With the turtle seemingly out of danger of dying, hospital staff is now focusing on the reptile's swollen eyes to preserve its vision, Moretti said.

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