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Remarkable cold survivor to be released Monday

More than 4,500 cold-stunned turtles have been rescued

September 26, 2010
Special to THE BREEZE,

Bringing a sea turtle back from the brink isn't unusual for Mote Marine personnel.

But this one was in the deep freeze.

A fully rehabbed sea turtle once chilled to the bone by this past winter's cold snap will be released Monday from Manasota Key by Mote staff, who helped the turtle recover from severe cold-related tissue damage.

Nicknamed "CiCi," the juvenile Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is one of Mote's three remaining cold-stress patients. Record low temperatures earlier this year cold-stunned more than 4,500 sea turtles in Florida waters, causing their body processes to shut down.

CiCi will be released at 9:30 a.m. from Manasota Beach. Parking is available in the small lot just after the drawbridge.

CiCi arrived at Mote April 17 after being rescued by Laurence Cook, who was kayaking when he found the turtle weak and unable to dive near Manasota Key. The turtle is named CiCi after Cook's mother.

Cook brought the turtle to shore on his kayak and gave it to volunteers in Mote's Sea Turtle Patrol, who took it to Mote's Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital.

"CiCi suffered severe exposure, but the full damage wasn't clear right away," said Lynne Byrd, Mote's animal care coordinator.

"Then, when the turtle started healing, its scutes started falling off all over."

Scutes are the broad scales covering the turtle's bony shell. The turtle suffered deep wounds, including lesions on the bone of its shell and skin damage on its neck - possibly from frostbite - before stranding. Mote staff treated CiCi with antibiotics and a medical paste.

The turtle required more time and energy than most patients, Byrd said, but CiCi's recovery was worth it.

"CiCi went through an amazing transformation during her rehab," Byrd said. "The wounds have really healed up and CiCi looks like a different turtle."



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