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Johnny the sea turtle release video

Turtle Found Stranded in Portugal to be Returned to Sea by Mote Marine Laboratory on Tuesday, December 27.

 

Mote Satellite Tagging Efforts will Allow Turtle’s Movements to be Tracked at Sea

 

Scientists and caregivers from Mote Marine Laboratory will return an endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle to the wild on Tuesday following its incredible 4,600-mile journey back to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The turtle, an endangered Kemp’s ridley, was found stranded in 2008 in the Netherlands and rehabilitated in Portugal. The turtle was brought to Mote on Nov. 29 to both complete its rehabilitation at Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital and to be outfitted with a state-of-the-art satellite tracking system by Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program , which will provide scientists with the ability to determine the success of the turtle’s rehabilitation and return to its natural environment.

 

“Rehabilitation success can be judged by the turtle resuming normal behavior upon return to the wild,” said Dr. Tony Tucker, head of Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. Tucker, a Florida Marine Turtle Permitholder, coordinates Mote’s sea turtle research and satellite tagging efforts and is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, an internationally recognized body that works for the conservation of marine turtles.

 

“Johnny’s satellite tag was supplied by NOAA to reveal his whereabouts and identify potential threats the turtle may face during its movements,” Tucker said. Mote has tracked more than 120 sea turtles since 2005, and is one of the few Florida facilities with permits to satellite-tag rehabilitated sea turtles.

 

“The most exciting part of Johnny’s journey is yet to come,” said Sheryan Epperly, Sea Turtle Program Lead from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. “Tracking this turtle will help to define the movement patterns of an endangered species. We’re fortunate that this turtle can complete its rehabilitation at Mote Marine Laboratory, which offered its extensive experience tracking and studying sea turtles in the Gulf.”

 

“By tracking Johnny, we’ll obtain a rare look at how rehabbed turtles reorient in the wild,” Tucker said. “Fortunately, we can compare this turtle to other wild Kemp’s ridleys being tracked currently by Mote and other institutions around the Gulf on www.seaturtle.org/tracking.”

 

Johnny will be released at 9 a.m. Dec. 27 from Lido Beach, a short distance from Mote’s main campus in Sarasota, Fla.

 

The turtle, nicknamed “Johnny Vasco da Gama,” was returned to Florida through an international team effort by the theme park Zoomarine in Portugal, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, The U.S. Embassy in Portugal, the Portuguese airline TAP and Mote.

 

Records of European strandings of Kemp’s ridleys are rare but known from museum specimens dating to 1921 in Ireland, 1913 in Great Britain, 1954 in the Netherlands and 1926 in France. Isolated trans-Atlantic waifs result when currents of the Gulf Stream transport young Kemp’s ridleys away from their usual coastal habitats along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard.

 

The Kemp’s ridley turtle was rescued in November 2008 in the Netherlands. The turtle was stabilized by the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands and sent to the aquarium Oceanário de Lisboa in Portugal the following summer and was transferred to Zoomarine for rehab.

 

Zoomarine staff identified the turtle as a juvenile Kemp's ridley — a highly endangered species that spends this part of its life feeding in relatively shallow, warm waters of the western North Atlantic, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, which is thousands of miles from where it was rescued. To return the turtle to optimum habitat, Zoomarine staff worked with NOAA Fisheries Service, FWC and Mote to obtain special import and export permits and arrange for the turtle's journey to Florida.

 

The turtle's travels earned it the nickname "Johnny Vasco da Gama" for the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who opened the sea route from Europe to India. The turtle was named "Johnny" in the Netherlands and gained its explorer name in Portugal.

 

Johnny was flown from Portugal to Miami on Nov. 28, 2011, in cabin space donated by TAP and accompanied by caregivers from Zoomarine. The turtle was driven to Mote on Nov. 29 by FWC staff and was welcomed to its new home by staff from Mote, FWC, NOAA, TAP and Zoomarine.

 

At Mote, the turtle received a thorough medical exam and its health was monitored through blood tests and careful observation. When the turtle was deemed healthy enough to return to the wild, its release was scheduled by FWC — the government agency that oversees the protection of wild sea turtles in Florida.

 

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Taken on January 10, 2012