Meeko, a young adult loggerhead sea turtle, is recovering at the Gulfarium’s sea turtle C.A.R.E. Center after having surgery to remove fish hooks from her intestines.

By Devon Ravine Northwest Florida Daily News

By Devon Ravine 315-4427 | @devonrnwfdn [email protected]

NOTE TO READERS: This is the second of a three-part series following the rehabilitation and release of Meeko, a loggerhead turtle who was rescued near the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier in late September.

Surgery can be challenging when your patient is covered in a hard shell of bone and keratin.

Such is the case with Meeko, a loggerhead sea turtle that was captured six weeks ago near the pier at Navarre Beach covered in fishing tackle.

The sub-adult female was brought to the C.A.R.E. Center, a non-profit facility at the Gulfarium that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured sea turtles.

C.A.R.E. Center staff removed about three pounds of hooks, lures and line from Meeko’s shell and flippers. They also took X-rays, which revealed Meeko had swallowed seven hooks and a lead weight from her time dining near the pier.

“Outwardly Meeko was eating and clinically doing well,” said Dr. Rebecca Wells, the Gulfarium veterinarian who is overseeing Meeko’s care.

Inside was a different story. It became clear from analyzing X-rays over several weeks that the hooks were firmly lodged in Meeko’s intestines and would have to be removed if she was to survive.

But how do you operate on an armor-plated animal?

“It’s difficult to go through the actual shell,” said Wells, who likened it to cutting through bone. “But there’s a nice window in front of the back legs,” she said, pointing out the fleshy area where the turtle’s flipper meets its shell.

So, borrowing surgery facilities at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Niceville, Wells anesthetized the 105-pound turtle and made an

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