ISLAMORADA (CBSMiami/NSF) – A group of Tibetan monks visiting the Florida Keys from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in southern India helped release an endangered sea turtle into the waters off Islamorada Thursday.

Hundreds of spectators gathered to cheer the release of “Drifter,” a 170-pound female adult loggerhead sea turtle that was rescued and rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital.

The reptile was found floating offshore of the Lower Keys in November 2019, unable to dive. “Drifter” was treated at the Turtle Hospital with broad-spectrum antibiotics, anti-parasitic medications, vitamins and a nourishing diet of fish, squid, and greens.

The release followed a ceremony performed by the monks, each an ordained student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose ritual chants aspire that animals enjoy long lives.

Minyak Rinpoche, the group’s leader, said that the key to ultimate happiness is compassion for all living things and loving-kindness.

“We did a liberation prayer for the sea turtle, and also at the same time we pray for all the animals, all the species, we pray are free from the suffering and they can have a good time in their life,” he said.

This week marks the end of the Tibetan monks’ Sacred Arts Tour 2020 in the Keys, an annual pilgrimage designed to share their ancient cultural teachings, artistic expressions and unique vocal chants with sacred instruments.

The Turtle Hospital is the world’s first veterinary hospital dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. The facility has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for more than 30 years.

(©2020 CBS Local Media. 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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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