Letiz the turtle released after four years in rehab

Letiz the turtle, who had been in rehab for for years after choking on a plastic bag, has been released back into the sea

Nature Trust Malta has announced that a turtle that was in rehab for four years, was released back into the sea earlier today.

Letiz, had ended up in rehab after it mistook a plastic bag floating in the sea for food around four years ago.

“She had swallowed a discarded plastic bag which blocked her digestion which weakened the animal considerably and caused her to contract pneumonia and subsequently a lung collapse,” a statement issued by the group reads.

It added that the turtle subsequently became unable to maintain a stable horizontal position in the water .

“In fact she spent a lot of her time in rehab on her side in the water and could not swim or dive,” the statement reads.

“On many occasions we thought she was not going to make it but she pulled through thanks to the expertise and perseverance of our Vet, Dr Anthony Gruppetta and to the dedication of our Rehab Team working under his instructions.”

Nature Trust added that Letiz was cured of the pneumonia but remained with her right side bobbing out of the water and still unable to swim or dive and in this condition she could never be released.

“Letiz was cured of the pneumonia but remained with her right side bobbing out of the water and still unable to swim or dive and in this condition she could never be released,” they said.

“A programme of fixing compensatory weights to the carapace was agreed and with the help of Karmenu Bugeja the necessary weights were designed and forged, with the aim of helping the turtle straighten out in a horizontal position and thus swim properly and dive in a normal natural way,” they said adding that the exercise also helped to build up her muscles.

Nature Trust explained how more months followed with little improvement, but that month after month the group had changed weights to keep her buoyant and stable, not giving up despite others encouraging them to do so.

“One fine day we went for our usual work with the turtles to our surprise we found Letiz with her other side bobbing out of the water. The side with the balancing weights was underwater and not the other way round as usual,” they explained, adding that she had finally begun to level into an almost perfect horizontal position and  just started swimming and diving normally.

The turtle reportedly began to swim, dive and catch her own food whilst still in her 3 metre tank after this development, until finally after four years of recovery and rehabilitation, Letiz was given a farewell and released back into the sea – able to control her buoyancy, swimming and diving like any normal healthy turtle does and with hopefully a long and happy life ahead of her.

The Nature Trust Malta Wildlife Rescue Team also  thanked Dr Gruppetta for his care and expertise, MEPA for their support and the Malta Aquaculture Research Centre at San Lucjan for their support and hosting of the rehabilitation tanks. They also thanked members of the public who had shown their support for Nature Trust Malta’s rehabilitation programmes over the years.