When Poppy, a vulnerable loggerhead sea turtle, was discovered in a power plant intake canal, she was covered in leeches and barnacles — and she was starving.
Rescuers brought Poppy to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) in Juno Beach, Florida, last October in a rush to save her life.
Blood work showed that Poppy had been suffering for a while. People gave her fluids full of vitamins, antibiotics and iron, since she was severely anemic.
"To remove those barnacles and leeches, the turtle was placed in fresh water for the first two days before moving to a salt water tank," Hannah Deadman, public relations representative at LMC, told The Dodo in a statement.
And soon Poppy began to get stronger. By early March, she was even strong enough to go back to sea.
Rescuers believed her recovery was worthy of a party, so the LMC let people know that they were going to gather at the beach on Thursday and cheer Poppy on as she returned home.
The sun shone brightly as people wheeled Poppy on a special cart from the rescue center to the beach.
Then two of her rescuers carried her to the shore and unstrapped her from her little bed.
As it turned out, over 500 local men, women and children wanted to root for Poppy as she took the plunge back into the wild.
It was a lot of pressure for the little turtle — but she didn't seem to mind.
As she felt the cool ocean water soak her belly, she knew just what to do.
People applauded as Poppy dove into the waves and swam away.
Sea turtle populations are decreasing because turtles are so often accidentally captured in fishing nets, or, like Poppy, coastline development cuts down on their habitats and they can't build nests. Pollution and climate change are also big threats to the animals worldwide.
To help more threatened sea turtles get the happy endings they deserve, you can "adopt" a sea turtle.