Coast Guard works with Department of the Interior, DOD, SeaWorld to save 2 turtles

SAN DIEGO — The Coast Guard assisted the U.S. Department of the Interior with transferring two endangered turtles from Newport, Ore., to SeaWorld in San Diego Thursday, 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 all sea turtles are considered to be threatened.

The C-130 Hercules airplane left Air Station Sacramento, Calif., just after 8 a.m., landed in Newport and then flew to San Diego where it landed at Naval Air Station North Island. After landing, the turtles were moved from the C-130 to a SeaWorld truck and taken to SeaWorld, where they will be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

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 Sea World 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 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 11 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 has 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.”

U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer Jetta H. Disco.

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