Wounded turtle Kfir returns to sea after treatment in Israel

Kfir's injuries were likely caused by a shockwave from an underwater explosion.

Wounded green sea turtle Kfir returning to the Mediterranean Sea. (photo credit: LUCIANA BRESLER)
Wounded green sea turtle Kfir returning to the Mediterranean Sea.
(photo credit: LUCIANA BRESLER)
Kfir, a wounded green sea turtle, was released to the sea near Wingate Institute after receiving lifesaving treatment in Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) said Saturday.

According to the authority, Kfir arrived at NPA's Mevoot Yam Sea Turtle Rescue Center over 1.5 years ago, back in March of 2019. He was weak and slim and sufferd an injury to his right eye. 

According to the NPA, Kfir received emergency medical treatment and was hospitalized in an intensive care unit. He then underwent more in-depth tensting by Dr. Tzachi (Yitzhak) Eisenberg at the Kol Chai veterinary clinic.

A CT scan done by Eisenberg found Kfir had liquid in his lungs and ears and that his right cornea was damaged. Such injuries, according to the NPA, were likely caused by a shockwave from an underwater explosion

The origin of the mysterious explosion off Israel's Mediterranean coast has yet to be determined. A team of scientists was established in early 2019 to examine a wave of similar shockwave injuries to sea turtles that were hospitalized in Israeli veterinary clinics.

Following a rehabilitation process that took just over a year and a half, Kfir was released to the sea in a small ceremony, surrounded by those who helped him through his journey. The ceremony was conducted in accordance with recent coronavirus restrictions.

Seven sea turtle species exist in the world and all are considered endangered. According to the NPA, only three of the seven species can be found in the Mediterranean Sea: the green sea turtle (the Pacific green turtle), the loggerhead sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle.

The green sea turtle population is the smallest of all three in the Mediterranean Sea. A group of newly-hatched baby turtles was collected by the Sea Turtle Rescue Center in 2002 in order to preserve the species. 

As the turtles reached sexual maturity, a captive breeding center was recently established and since 2019 the females have been laying healthy eggs.

The Nature and Parks Authority called upon all Israelis to look out for wounded sea turtles or ones in distress on Israel's coast and notify the center at the number *3639.