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PALMAHIM NATIONAL PARK, Israel - Home at last! Taking her sweet time, a sea turtle sauntered slowly back to sea on Thursday after months recovering from an injury.
Fishermen found Stitch, a loggerhead sea turtle, off Israel's coast in December with a fishing hook lodged in her mouth that had caused her lungs to fill up with water.
After nine months of rehabilitation at Israel's Sea Turtle Rescue Center, Stitch was released back to the Mediterranean Sea on a sandy beach in Palmahim National Park, south of Tel Aviv.
Dozens of people gathered to watch, clapping and cheering as she strode towards the water.
When a sea turtle has water in the lungs, it "can develop (an) infection in the lungs, and it takes a lot of time to heal, with antibiotics and a lot of care," said Olga Rybak of the Sea Turtle Rescue Center.
Stitch is now healthy and strong, Rybak said, at an estimated 20-30 years old. Loggerheads can live over 70-80 years and females reach maturity at around 35 years of age, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"That means she can join the reproductive population of the Mediterranean, so we're really happy we (could) save this turtle, so (she) will generate more turtles in the future." REUTERS