Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sea turtles travel in style

Three sea turtles were recently transported from the University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center (MARC) to the South Carolina Aquarium; but it was no ordinary transport. Ronnie Santos, a local pilot and member of the East Cooper Pilot's Association, offered the sea turtles a ride in his private plane, a Piper Twin Comanche.

On Wednesday, November 5, 2009, Ronnie flew the 95-pound loggerhead and 2 small Kemp's ridley sea turtles from Biddeford, Maine to the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport in Charleston, SC. Although the transport containers barely fit into the aircraft, this unusual "Angel Flight" was successful in cutting many hours off of what would have been a 18-20 hour drive. The purpose of the transfer was to make room for more patients at MARC during the upcoming cold-stunning season. The cost of the transport was absorbed by Mr. Santos and other members of the East Cooper Pilot's Association.

History: The turtles being transferred were part of a cold stunning event on the coast of New England in November of 2008. Sea turtles are cold blooded and are unable to regulate their body temperatures. When coastal water temperatures drop quickly, sea turtles in the area become stunned and are unable to migrate to warmer waters.

The loggerhead, affectionately called "Santos," will finish rehabilitation at the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital and the 2 Kemp's ridleys were transferred to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.

This was an amazing event and really showcases the joint efforts of organizations working together to support sea turtle conservation. I would like to send a sincere thank you to Mr. Ron Santos and the East Cooper Pilot's Association, the University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center and the SC Department of Natural Resources for their leadership in sea turtle conservation in SC.

Kelly Thorvalson