Sea Turtle Returned To Gulf Of Mexico After 3-Year Journey
December 28, 2011

Sea Turtle Returned To Gulf Of Mexico After 3-Year Journey

After a three-year rehabilitation in Portugal, a juvenile endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nicknamed Johnny Vasco de Gama was returned to familiar waters in the Gulf of Mexico, reports Stephanie Pappas for LiveScience.

Johnny is believed to have beeen caught in cold currents in 2008 and was “cold-stunned,” a condition that shuts down internal organs and can kill sea turtles.

The sea turtle was found by staff members of the Rotterdam Zoo, along the Netherlands coast, 4,600 miles away from its familiar and warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and was stabilized and sent to the Oceanário de Lisboa aquarium in Portugal for what would be 3 years of rehabilitation, UPI reports.

But how did a small turtle make such a long journey? Turtle scientist Tony Tucker reckons the he hitched a ride.

“Most little turtles – they´re living in the sargassum rafts,” Tucker told Christopher Joyce of NPR. “The sargassum brown seaweed that floats at the surface provides them shelter from predators like seagulls and albatrosses, but it´s also a rich source of food.”

Tucker, who works with the sea turtle conservation program at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, thinks Johnny and his seaweed raft got caught in a big circular current called the North Atlantic Gyre and rode along for a year until being found off the coast of Europe.

Johnny´s rescuers knew he needed to get home, and when he was ready, they flew him to Florida on a Portuguese airliner.

“They bolted out one of the passenger rows of seats and made a place inside a special container for Johnny, and he got to ride all the way across the Atlantic,” Tucker says. “This jet-setting turtle has already crossed the Atlantic twice now, but once in style.”

On Tuesday, scientists set Johnny free in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico wearing a satellite tag on his back to track his location.


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