MIAMI (WSVN/CNN) – Two turtles were rescued after an alarming case of abuse, which was apparently part of a religious ceremony.
But thanks to some TLC, one is now back in the wild, and the second is well on his way.
A woman called authorities after she found the little guys in a South Florida waterway chained together – with the chains hooked into holes drilled in their shells.
Officials said the turtles were chained as part of a religious ceremony, judging by the items attached to the middle of the chain: a plastic bag carrying voodoo dolls, cinnamon cloves and two photos of an unknown couple.
“It’s pretty crazy when we see cases like this,” said Wildlife Rehabilitation manager Yaritza Acosta, who cared for the turtles at Pelican Harbor Seabird Station after they were found. “We’ve seen these kind of cases in the past involving Muscovy ducks and things like that, but I’ve never seen a case like this with turtles chained together, so it’s pretty disturbing.”
X-rays showed one of the animal’s lung capacity had decreased, making it hard for him to sink deeply into water.
"Right now his buoyancy is off,” Acosta said. “He's still able to eat pretty well, so he is in our outside pool, doing well in that regard, but as soon as he recovers fully we feel that he will be 100 percent."
The other turtle’s treatment is faring much better, and he’s recovering quickly from shell rot.
"We were doing daily cleaning, soaks, and he healed well from that, so he was good to go fairly soon and he's out there,” Acosta said. “He went to Amelia Earhart Park and the lake there, and he should be doing well."
Acosta said everyone should do what the woman who found the turtles did if they see animal abuse.
"Call the authorities if you can, or your local rehab center in your area, to get the animal help," she said.
Once the second turtle has recovered enough, an animal rights group called Animal Rescue Mission has agreed to take it in, and let it live in their private sanctuary.