Montel, a green sea turtle, was dealt a bad deck of cards. First, he got tangled up in fishing line, severing his front left flipper. Then, a shark devoured half of his front right flipper, leaving a visible outline of its bite. Finally, while floating on the surface of the water, a boat struck Montel, damaging his right eye permanently. Any of these things individually would be devastating to a turtle. But thanks to a feisty spirit, Montel is a survivor and now a permanent resident under the care of The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.
River Forest brothers, Jaxon and Miles Toppen, adopted Montel in the name of the One Earth Film Festival with their winnings from the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest. At the March film festival, the boys won $75 for themselves plus a $75 matching gift to donate to a sustainability organization supporting the theme of their film.
Jaxon and Miles won the top prize at the elementary/middle school level for “Shells in Need of Saving: Tales of Two Turtles”. Their 8-minute documentary recounts the stories of two injured sea turtles they met when they visited The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. The boys learned that turtles face many dangers. Ingesting plastic trash can cause blockages in their digestive systems. A disease called fibropapilloma is growing at an alarming rate among turtles, where tumors grow over their eyes and flippers (this even happened to Montel). There is also the ever-present danger of being hit by a boat.
Most turtles at The Turtle Hospital are treated, rehabilitated, and released, but Montel is a permanent resident as his chance of survival in the ocean is too low due to the number and severity of his physical impairments. After winning their prize money, Jaxon and Miles studied The Turtle Hospital website and selected Montel for adoption. “He just seemed like the turtle that needed the most help,” explained Jaxon.
According to Miles, Montel’s favorite food is squid. At 170 pounds, he needs plenty to keep him happy, but he also likes turtle chow and lettuces.
Montel’s personality is described on the website as “feisty.” Miriam Hribar, an educator from The Turtle Hospital explained that he is a healthy turtle of about 30 to 40 years of age. “Even though he can only see with one eye, he has a great sense of smell and feels vibrations well. He has a healthy appetite and has donated blood several times for other turtles who would not have survived without his blood donation.” He is also a little mischievous as he frequently sneaks up behind snorkeling caregivers to nibble at them. “He’s never aggressive though,” says Hribar.
Follow Montel’s progress on the One Earth Film Fest website at: oneearthfilmfest.org/montel-the-turtle/
The One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest is accepting submissions now for the 2018 awards. Prizes are $1,000 at the college level, $350 at the high school level, $100 at the middle school level, and $75 at the elementary school level. Each winner also receives a matching gift to donate to a sustainability organization supporting the theme of their film. Learn more here: oneearthfilmfest.org/contest-details/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
By Lisa Biehle Files