Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sea turtles take to the skies!

It wasn't until Thursday that Andy Smith, the pilot from North American Jet flying demonstration flights near Boston, Massachusetts, learned that he may be traveling back to Charleston with seven endangered sea turtles. It's probably something that had never crossed his mind. But that's exactly what he did on Sunday afternoon. Through the generosity of Mason Holland, Charleston resident and owner of North American Jet, seven sea turtles suffering the effects of cold-stunning off the New England coast flew in style to finish rehabilitation at the South Carolina Aquarium.

Prior to Sunday, the turtles had been receiving treatment at the New England Aquarium in Boston but their hospital beds were full and seal season was on its way. The South Carolina Aquarium offered to take several patients to lighten their load.

The South Carolina Aquarium Sprinter Van greets the Eclipse 500, one of the most fuel efficient jets in the world.

Taking a look at the precious cargo.

Turtles snug in their boxes ready for the last leg of their trip.

James Platzer with North American Jet staff, pilot Andy Smith and Charleston Dispatcher Chris Casias

Team from Sea Turtle Rescue Program and North American Jet

The first strandings for our new interns, Caroline and Vicki

Their body temperatures were monitored and they went into tanks when they warmed to within a few degrees of tank temperatures

All seven turtles recieved exams and treatment for skin lesions

Six of the seven patients are juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the most endangered of all the species. These little guys range from 5-9 pounds. They have been named in honor of those that helped them up to this point, including folks from the New England Aquarium and North American Jet.

The seventh sea turtle is actually a hybrid! A DNA sample has been taken for analysis to determine exactly what kind of hybrid, but it is most likely a loggerhead green. This special turtle is named Eclipse after the very special jet that transported the turtles. The Eclipse 500 aircraft is one of the lightest, most fuel efficient jets in the world. Click here to learn more about Eclipse Aerospace. Also, be sure to check out the New England Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue Blog that was written when the hybrid was first admitted.

Christi carries Eclipse to her new tank

We would like to thank all that have helped these animals thus far. Huge thanks to all involved their initial rescue and rehabilitation in New England, especially the good folks at the New England Aquarium. Thanks to DuBose Griffin from SCDNR for the fast transport permits, to Sea Turtle Rescue Volunteer Rachel Brennan and her husband, Tim for making the first call to find a flight for these turtles, to James Spatzer who made the call to Mason Holland that ultimately got the turtles here, to all the folks at Atlantic Aviation in Charleston, SC, and especially to Mason Holland and Andy Smith from North American Jet. We are so grateful!

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager