A nature videographer flying a drone spotted an endangered loggerhead turtle fighting the red tide. He quickly alerted wildlife officials who showed up to save him.

The struggling loggerhead turtle was captured by nature videographer Michael McCarthy, owner of the See Through Canoe Company.see through canoe

  • A cameraman in Florida spotted a loggerhead turtle floating near the ocean’s surface last month.

  • After quickly alerting officials, the turtle was rescued and is still recovering at a rehabilitation center.

  • The rehabilitation center confirmed that the turtle had been exposed to red tide, a bloom of toxic algae.

A wildlife videographer in Florida was filming the shoreline last month with his drone, as he usually does, when he spotted something unusual in the water: a loggerhead turtle floating near the surface.

“It was pretty easy to spot because it was floating on the surface and it didn’t go under,” Michael McCarthy, owner of the See Through Canoe Company, told Insider. “Normally when you see a turtle in the ocean, it’s only on the surface for 20 seconds to a minute, only to catch its breath and come back down.”

But this turtle, off a beach near St. Petersburg, stayed on the surface. Approaching with his drone, it was obvious to McCarthy that the turtle needed help, and he needed it fast.

He took about a minute of footage to document the turtle’s behavior, knowing it would be important, before running home to upload the video and call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC.

“When you call FWC or other agencies, they don’t know if you have any experience with turtles or marine life, or if you have any idea what you’re really looking at,” McCarthy explained. She knew that the video would help him prove that the turtle needed help.

FWC connected him with one of their biologists, who called him back within minutes. She started asking him a lot of questions about the situation, but he knew that time was of the essence. He interrupted her and explained that she could send him the video of her.

“That way, she can see for herself and assess for herself exactly the situation, and know how quickly she needs help,” McCarthy told her. She added that she had the exact GPS coordinates of where the turtle was, thanks to her drone.

Within the hour, an FWC marine biologist was on the beach.

The biologist swam into the water and gently guided the large sea turtle to shore. Once he was on the sand, another bather used his umbrella to protect the turtle from the sun.

FWC notified Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which was located nearby and has a dedicated rescue and rehabilitation center for marine life. An aquarium crew arrived a short time later and was able to get the turtle onto a stretcher and into his truck within minutes, according to McCarthy.

“Everybody was focused. We all had our best game. Nobody got stuck,” he said. “And hopefully that will result in that turtle making a full recovery.”

Video of the ordeal shared by McCarthy and the aquarium showed the turtle appearing to gasp as it lay on the beach and was carried away on the stretcher.

After being rescued on February 28, the turtle, which was named the Shenandoah, was still being treated at Clearwater Marine Aquarium as of Friday, a representative for the aquarium told Insider.

A patient page on the aquarium’s website shows photos of the Shenandoah, who weighs 251 pounds and whose shell is about 3 feet long. The sample tests confirmed what biologists suspected, that the Shenandoah was exposed to high levels of red tide, which can affect the turtle’s nervous system and weaken it or cause other abnormal neurological functions, putting it at risk of drowning or attack by predators.

The aquarium representative said that once the Shenandoah has recovered, it will be returned to the ocean, likely near where it was rescued.

Endangered loggerhead turtles are among the marine life in Florida affected by red tide, a harmful algae bloom that produces toxins that can kill marine life, make shellfish unsafe to eat and pollute the surrounding air. Red tides, so named because they can make the water look red, have occurred along the US coastlines, but appear off Florida’s Gulf Coast each summer.

McCarthy said that in addition to the Shenandoah, he recently saw a dead turtle, a dead manatee and dead fish washed ashore, and that seeing this red tide event so early in the year was a little “ominous” for what could be coming this summer. .

“I’m glad I did what I had to do. I was busy, I didn’t want to stop everything, but I had to live with myself,” he said. “And I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t stop what I was doing and do what I had to do.”

He added that he was grateful to have been able to see this turtle when it did, before it struggled even more, like other marine life he had seen, and ended up on shore already dead.

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