Endangered sea turtle rehabs in Florida Keys

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Bette Zirkelbach, directly behind the turtle, trailed by veterinarian Dr. Doug Mader, pushes a gurney to move the endangered hawksbill sea turtle at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital on Sunday. The female reptile, laden with eggs, was discovered on a St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands beach, on Aug. 24, just after Tropical Storm Isaac brushed the Virgin Islands. It was transferred Saturday and is in extremely guarded condition.

MARATHON, Fla. -- A veterinarian says that an egg-laden hawksbill sea turtle, airlifted from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital is in extremely guarded condition.

Dr. Doug Mader treated the 123-pound turtle Sunday. He said an ultrasound revealed more than 100 eggs, many which were viable, although he could not confirm if they were fertile.

Mader stressed the turtle’s condition was grave, but said he and other staff would do all they could to keep it alive because hawksbills are rare and classified as endangered.

Mader ultimately hopes to return the turtle and any hatchlings to St. Croix, where it was found in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. But if the turtle does not survive, he said, they would try to recover the eggs and hatch them in an incubator containing Virgin Islands’ beach sand.