Meet Chex, a green sea turtle who is teaching humans not to litter.
Two months ago, a juvenile green sea turtle was found floating in the Florida Gulf, unable to dive.
"Chex," as the teeny turtle patient was nicknamed, made his way to Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA)--home of the famous Winter of the true-life movie "Dolphin Tale"--where he underwent a series of intake diagnostics to find the problem: he'd swallowed a balloon.
Juvenile green sea turtles are omnivores. Their diet relies on fish, invertebrates (like crustaceans), insects, and plant life. In their adult stage, green sea turtles become herbivores.
Floating oceanic debris can look an awful lot like a tasty meal. Floating plastic bags, for example, resemble jellyfish, the main diet of the world's largest turtle--the 2,000 pound leatherback. Marine litter can also be accidentally ingested, like little bits of plastic that find their way into seagrass beds.
Organizations like Balloons Blow-Don't Let Them Go are educating tourists and locals on the importance of cleaning up beach litter, especially balloons. Outdoor celebrations often include balloon releases, letting the helium-filled orbs float upward into the sky.
But those balloons have to end up somewhere. With the planet made up of 71 percent water--over 95 percent of that being oceans--chances are good those balloons will end up at sea. Maybe you've even seen balloon strings affecting wildlife on land with bird entanglements.
At CMA, an ultrasound revealed that Chex had ingested a foreign object. Buildup of non-digestible items in the GI tract can cause blockages and impactions, resulting in gas accumulation that causes a sea turtle to float.
Floating juvenile sea turtles are targets for sharks, and they are also unable to dive down to escape speeding boats. Additionally, they cannot feed, often leading to malnourishment.
Happy #WorldTurtleDay! Meet Chex, one of our current rehabbing sea turtles & learn his unique rescue & rehab story. Watch Chex LIVE on our web cam before his release @ http://bit.ly/2q3R4L8
Posted by Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Luckily for Chex, the rehab team at CMA helped nourish him back to health enough so that the little guy was able to pass the balloon--string and all--on his own.
After two months in a rehab tank, Chex is now able to dive down to the bottom. He is soon scheduled to be released back into his ocean home.
For more information on the amazing life of turtles, check out my book, "Today's Dinosaurs: A Complete Guide to Turtles, Terrapins, and Tortoises," now available on Amazon in digital or print.
Have you ever found a sick or injured sea turtle and called a wildlife organization to get it some help? Tell us about the rescue story in the comments below!
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