A juvenile green sea turtle, rehabilitated for more than a year at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, was transported from Miami via FedEx Friday to San Diego, California, where she is to reside in her ‘forever home’ at the Living Coast Discovery Center as an ambassador for endangered sea turtles.
The Chula Vista-based nonprofit organization specializes in community educational outreach programs and animal experiences.
“Karen,” named by her rescuers, was found floating off Key West in May 2021. She was suffering from injuries related to a boat strike that severed her lower spine and left her with a positive buoyancy hindrance that keeps her from foraging for food.
“Unfortunately, she was left with something called bubble-butt syndrome,” said Bette Zirkelbach, the Turtle Hospital’s general manager who escorted “Karen” on the flight. “She’s unable to dive so she is non-releasable, meaning she can’t go back to the wild.
“But the next best thing is, she’s going to have a forever home at the Living Coast where she’s going to help teach people about sea turtles,” Zirkelbach added.
During Friday’s flight transport, the 50-pound reptile was kept comfortable in a specialized waterproof crate equipped with memory foam, and her eyes and skin hydrated with lubricants.
Sea turtles can breathe air like humans do and can remain out of water for an extended period of time, according to Zirkelbach.
“Our mission at the Turtle Hospital is to get all the turtles that we can, return them to their natural habitat; unfortunately sometimes we get ones that are non-releasable like Karen,” said Zirkelbach, who estimates the turtle to be around 10 years old.
“This is an exciting adventure for Karen.”
The world’s first veterinary facility of its kind, the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for over 30 years.