Seattle Aquarium Laboratory Technician Amy Green recently traveled to San Diego with Tucker, a rescued olive ridley sea turtle that was rehabilitated at the Aquarium. Tucker was joined by Comber, a rescued Pacific green turtle that was rehabilitated at the Vancouver Aquarium. Both turtles will continue care at SeaWorld Rescue before release into the wild.
Sea turtles are among the animals protected under the recently passed Washington State Initiative 1401, which prohibits trade of 10 land and sea animals (and/or their parts) in our state, and also aims to reduce our state’s contribution to the illegal poaching and animal trafficking that are dramatically reducing populations of endangered species in the wild.
Today, in honor of Endangered Species Day, Amy shares highlights from her experience traveling with Tucker:
The day was upon us—Thursday, April 21 was moving day! Seattle Aquarium staff members including Conservation Research Curator Dr. Shawn Larson, Lab Specialist Angela Smith, Veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner, Director of Public Affairs Tim Kuniholm and I spent the morning preparing for Tucker’s big day. Preparations included checking the turtle travel boxes, packing any medical necessities, and organizing logistics of the trip. Aquarium Engineer Bob Kiel, along with Rob Sorensen, designed and built our custom turtle shipping box. The inside of the wooden box is lined with foam and neoprene to keep Tucker comfortable during the trip. It has rows of holes near the lid to allow for air movement. After one last check, the turtles were both placed in their respective boxes, and off we went to the U.S. Navy base.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requested the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard with the flight transport. They coordinated to schedule travel during regular pilot training; the Coast Guard used this opportunity to train for other emergency situations that could involve passengers requiring critical care during the flight.
Vancouver Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Karisa Tang, Laura Todd of USFWS, KING 5 environmental reporter Alison Morrow and I accompanied Tucker and Comber on the flight, onboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft (super cool!). The flight was “slow and low” to keep the air temperature up in the mid-70s for the turtles. Both turtles kept calm during the flight, which was about four hours long.
Upon arrival in San Diego, SeaWorld Rescue crew members began moving the turtles from the transport boxes to their own animal crates. We loaded up into the vans to head to the SeaWorld Rescue facility, in Mission Bay, California.
We drove into SeaWorld, and prepared to unload both turtles. Each was wrapped carefully in a sling and put on a cart to be weighed. Tucker was first, and after being transported into the holding pool, he immediately swam to the opposite end. He started small dives along the pool and was quite active, which was a relief to see after a long transport. Both turtles were now in their new temporary home.
This whole endeavor couldn’t have happened without the combined effort and collaboration of many parties. Tucker and Comber’s care, treatment and recovery will continue at SeaWorld Rescue, under permit by the USFWS. They have expected release date of late summer, when the ocean has warmed enough to ensure the best chance of successful survival and return to the wild.