Coast Guard to work with Department of the Interior to save 2 turtles

SAN DIEGO — The Coast Guard is scheduled to assist the United States Department of the Interior with transferring two endangered turtles from Newport, Ore., to SeaWorld in San Diego Jan. 28, 2010.

The Coast Guard received a request from the Fish and Wildlife Service in Newport to help transport an Olive ridley and a Pacific green sea turtle that were both rescued in November 2009. The ridley sea turtle is listed as endangered and the green sea turtle is threatened in Oregon.

The turtles are scheduled to be transferred from the Oregon Coast Aquarium and loaded onto the C-130 from the Newport Municipal Airport at 9:45 a.m., and are scheduled to arrive in San Diego at 1:30 p.m.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service both turtles were in severe thermal shock when they were rescued from near lethal temperatures. They were taken to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where they have been cared for since their rescue. However, the care the turtles will need to be fully rehabilitated and sent to the wild will be better received at SeaWorld due to the facilities there.

“We have pursued other methods of transporting the turtles to San Diego, but are concerned about exposing the turtles to any cold conditions,” said Laura L. Todd of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “The Coast Guard offers the most efficient and safest conditions for this transfer.”

The turtles will be picked up in Newport by a C-130 Hercules plane from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, and flown to San Diego, where they will then be transferred to SeaWorld. There the Sea World caregivers are better equipped to attend to the turtles’ needs as they recuperate and are rehabilitated to be released back into the wild.

The air station was able to schedule transporting the turtles to coincide with a training flight. The request for transportation had come in earlier, but due to the high level of operations at the air station, the crew had to put off scheduling it until this week.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to work with a number of different agencies for a great cause,” said Lt. Justin Cassell, a pilot from Air Station Sacramento. “The Coast Guard has eleven missions, one of which encompasses environmental protection. What better way to help the animals of the environment than to ensure they get where they need to be. The Coast Guard is honored to be able to take part in such an amazing mission.”

“The Aquarium’s role in the sea turtles’ rehabilitation ahs been triage, urgent care and stabilization,” said Jim Burke, the Director of Animal Husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. “Ideally, once rehabilitation is complete, they will be released into their natural habitat. It has been a tremendous learning experience for new staff and a good refresher for experienced staff members. These are both female turtles, and if we can get them back into the wild, it will benefit the endangered populations of sea turtles.”

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