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Turtle Couple Released Off The Keys On Valentine’s Day

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"Kristi," left, and "Gizmo," two loggerhead sea turtles treated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, swim to open water off Islamorada, Fla., after being released Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. At left is marine life artist Wyland, and at right, Richie Moretti, the hospital's founder and director. The Valentine's Day release also marked the launch of a cooperative fundraising venture between the Wyland Foundation and Save-A-Turtle, a Keys-based turtle protection organization. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

“Kristi,” left, and “Gizmo,” two loggerhead sea turtles treated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, swim to open water off Islamorada, Fla., after being released Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. At left is marine life artist Wyland, and at right, Richie Moretti, the hospital’s founder and director. The Valentine’s Day release also marked the launch of a cooperative fundraising venture between the Wyland Foundation and Save-A-Turtle, a Keys-based turtle protection organization. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

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ISLAMORADA (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Love is in the air, and in the sea this Valentine’s Day, as a male and female loggerhead turtle were released together Friday off the Florida Keys. 

The event also marked the beginning of a cooperative venture between an acclaimed marine life artist and a Keys-based turtle protection agency.
 
Officials from Marathon’s Turtle Hospital released “Gizmo” and “Kristi” Friday behind Marker 88 Restaurant.

“I think love is in the air … I feel it,” said Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach, just before the two reptiles swam out of their tubs into Florida Bay behind Marker 88 Restaurant.
 
“Gizmo,” a sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle, was found floating near Conch Key last October, suffering from emaciation and a head wound. X-rays taken at the Turtle Hospital revealed an intestinal impaction. Gizmo was treated with antibiotics, lactulose, vitamins, honey wound care, and a diet of squid and fish.
 
“Kristi,” an adult loggerhead sea turtle, was recovered near Tavernier Creek where she was found entangled in a trap line. Kristi received physical therapy on her back flipper and was treated with antibiotics and vitamins, and fed squid and fish.
 
Artist Wyland, best known for his giant marine life murals, assisted with the releases, launching a partnership between the Keys’ Save-A-Turtle and the environmentally focused Wyland Foundation. As a facet of the relationship, Wyland has created artwork to be featured on Save-A-Turtle merchandise that is to be used for fund-raising endeavors. Save-A-Turtle is a volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting marine turtles and their habitats.

Marine life artist Wyland, left, and Save-A-Turtle board president Harry Appel, right, display artwork created by Wyland exclusively for the Florida Keys-based sea turtle protection organization. The Valentine’s Day release of two rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtles marked the launch of a cooperative fundraising venture between Save-A-Turtle and the environmentally-focused Wyland Foundation. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Marine life artist Wyland, left, and Save-A-Turtle board president Harry Appel, right, display artwork created by Wyland exclusively for the Florida Keys-based sea turtle protection organization. The
Valentine’s Day release of two rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtles marked the launch of a cooperative fundraising venture between Save-A-Turtle and the environmentally-focused Wyland Foundation. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

“It’s not only about the art,” said Wyland. “It’s about the conservation and the message.

“So if we can get people involved through art, then we can inspire them to be curious, maybe learn more and maybe get behind supporting a group like save the turtles (Save-A-Turtle),” he said.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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