Eggs from injured sea turtle fail to hatch at Florida hospital

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ST. CROIX - The saga of Good Hope, an injured hawksbill sea turtle who was named for the St. Croix beach where she was found after a tropical storm passed in August, has ended.

The turtle underwent treatment for more than a month at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Fla., before she died on Oct. 2.

But hospital staff and workers had held out hope that at least some of the more than 100 eggs collected from the turtle and incubated in sand sent to Florida from Good Hope Beach on St. Croix specifically for that purpose would hatch.

That was not to be, Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital, said on Wednesday.

The eggs, which Good Hope passed at different points during her stay at the hospital, were all kept properly incubating in the sand more than 60 days, Zirkelbach said.

None hatched.

Zirkelbach said that the end of the final 60-day incubation period earlier this month coincided with an annual sea turtle workshop at The Turtle Hospital that draws veterinarians and experts from around the world.

During that time, Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, an expert from Florida Atlantic University, examined each of Good Hope's eggs, Zirkelbach said.

"It appears that they were not fertilized," she said. "She went through the eggs with me. She said there were no embryos growing at any time in the eggs. The thought was that they were more than likely not fertilized."

Good Hope was found injured and washed up on Good Hope Beach after Tropical Storm Isaac passed on Aug. 24. She was taken to a local veterinarian, where she was stabilized as much as possible before she was transferred to The Turtle Hospital, where she arrived Sept. 1.

Her major injuries included deep puncture wounds to both of her front flippers, which then became infected. Eventually, the infection spread through her system. The wounds appeared to have been made by someone with a gaff, Zirkelbach said at the time.

In addition, the turtle's eyes were swollen shut, and she had fluid in her lungs when she arrived at the hospital.

Although Good Hope seemed to be improving with treatment and the vet tending her had upgraded her odds for survival, Good Hope died unexpectedly on Oct. 2.

A necropsy showed that her lungs were filled with sand and water, and that she had died of pneumonia, Zirkelbach said at the time.

But Good Hope had passed eggs periodically while she was at the hospital, and the vet had harvested 58 more eggs before the necropsy.

Of a total of 126 eggs, staff initially had considered 119 of them potentially viable, Zirkelbach said. Turtle Hospital officials had said they would bring any hatchlings back to Good Hope Beach to make their way to the sea.

But none of the eggs ever hatched.

"It's too bad," Zirkelbach said. "We were hoping."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or e-mail

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