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Tourist recounts brave rescue of ailing sea turtle off Ambergris Caye coast

Posted: Monday, January 6, 2020. 5:44 pm CST.

Photo Courtesy: Ambergris Today

By Aaron Humes: It has been a rough week for Belize’s tourism industry, with cancellations en masse in Caye Caulker after utility problems stretching from before Christmas, coming off a down year for visits exacerbated by criminal activity against tourists.

But thankfully in the following story, we are reminded that most tourists get the experience of a lifetime in The Jewel, even if this one was a little harrowing.

According to Ambergris Today, tourists coming back to Ambergris Caye from a snorkeling excursion on Saturday afternoon, January 4, spotted a loggerhead turtle gasping for air in the distance in the vicinity of Shark Ray Alley.

It turned out the turtle was suffocating after swallowing a pufferfish that inflated in its throat.

The crew of tour operators Felicity Sailing, led by boat captain Horace Bladon, came to the rescue as shared by Jenelle Kim, whose husband Craig also assisted.

First, they brought the 100-pound turtle on to the boat and employed a large knife and a tool looking like a bolt-cutter to remove the fish from the turtle’s throat.

Captain Bladon had to work carefully, hold the turtle’s mouth open and avoid injury to it or to himself if its jaws snapped closed during the operation.

Writing on Instagram, Kim said the operation took more than half an hour as her family including two sons watched on. Despite it looking particularly bleak at one point, she said, where the turtle seemed to be fighting the captain as much as the intruder, it looked up into the captain’s eyes and calmed enough to get the pufferfish out.

She comments that “In many cultures, the turtle is a symbol of life, of groundedness and patience. The turtle knows when to speed up and when to slow down…it knows how to move with the Tao (the way of life). I do not believe that there are coincidences in life. I closed my eyes and with gratitude thanked the Universe for helping to keep this life. It was a reminder that there are of course times that we need to think and move quickly in life but equally as is important, we must take moments to calm our mind and connect with the universe.”

The loggerhead, now breathing properly and only a bit shaken, was sent back into the water and everyone came away with a memorable experience.

The loggerhead turtle and its cousins, the green and hawksbill turtles, are considered endangered species and protected by law, and so our kudos to all involved for a successful save.

Video of the rescue can be seen at Ambergris Today’s website and on Facebook.


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