Baby albino turtle “Hope” doesn’t so much wear her heart on her sleeve as right outside her chest. Veterinary medicine has yet to name the unbelievable condition, but believe it, we must: the photos are amazing.
The Pinkbelly Sideneck turtle’s breed name is deceptive, as Hope was born albino (without pigment in her skin). In a double whammy of interesting birth characteristics, Hope was also born with her heart outside of her chest cavity. In humans, this is known as “ectopia cordis,” and it’s a life-threatening genetic defect.
But try telling that to Hope: she’s a survivor.
Hope’s owner is reptile enthusiast Michael Aquilina from New Jersey, who documents his interest in all things reptile on his Instagram account. Hope was given to Michael by a friend in November of 2018, under the assumption that the little turtle stood the best chance of a long and healthy life in Michael’s expert care. Although Michael is experienced, he hasn’t come across Hope’s condition before and so relies largely on “common sense” in providing her with what she needs, he told The Daily Mail.
The reptile enthusiast’s page also shows a plethora of other interesting reptilian and marine life.
Michael is keen to share Hope’s progress with his followers and posts regular updates, photos, and anecdotes. Almost a month after his first introduction to Hope, Michael posted: “Few things in life unite us more than animals ‼️ Day 25, 2nd time handling her since I got her, she’s gained some weight and I can see some growth rings on her carapace.”
The accompanying photo shows Hope’s exposed heart beating visibly on her underbelly, just outside of her soft, infant turtle shell. But it turns out that despite her genetic defect, this turtle is a bit of a showboat! Since then, Michael’s Instagram page has filled up with images of Hope eating, posing, and playing in her private tank. She lives alone, Michael explains, because “I can’t risk another turtle accidentally puncturing her heart cavity … The goal is to keep her deformity clean and her immune system strong.”
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ZooMed Laboratories provides Hope’s food and medical supplies. Michael described Hope as an “eager eater,” revealing that the tiny turtle’s favorite foods currently include Mysis shrimp, clams, snails, and frozen bloodworms.
Hope is not likely to have surgery to correct her heart defect.
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“Hope has impacted my life in so many ways it actually makes me emotional,” Michael told Caters News Agency. “She’s so small and so fragile … but she’s fearless. She’s got so many people rooting for her around the world.”
“She’s spreading hope while also giving me hope,” Michael added. “Hope has changed my life for the better in such a short amount of time.”
Does Hope give you hope, too? What an amazing creature! Share this story of survival against the odds with all the animal lovers you know.