An endangered turtle that washed up in Ireland with hypothermia has been returned to its native Canary Islands on a flight—and even had its own boarding pass.
The three-year-old Loggerhead sea turtle, known as Julius Caesar or ‘JC’, was discovered on the beach in County Donegal, but has boarded a flight to much warmer waters.
Airline Aer Lingus teamed up with Exploris Aquarium, where the the reptile has been living for the last three years, to fly him to Gran Canaria for his release.
Aer Lingus pilot, Captain Peter Lumsden, said: “It is our pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and to ensure the safe transportation of JC the Turtle to Gran Canaria.
“Since they first got in contact, Aer Lingus has worked closely with the team from Exploris Aquarium and our Maintenance & Engineering and Ground Operations teams to ensure that all JC’s needs are met as we complete this important mission.
Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical to his wellbeing and he requires regular monitoring and shell lubrication so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option.
His specially designed crate was securely strapped across a number of seats in the cabin.
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One big journey
In January 2019, weighing a few hundred grams, nine-month-old JC is thought to have gotten caught up in the wrong current and swept along the Gulf Stream.
Loggerhead turtles are endangered and are happiest in warmer climates, so the chilly waters of the North Atlantic put JC’s life in danger.
Fortunately, he was discovered by a local family and taken to Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, County Down, to recuperate in a tropical tank with tasty snacks of fish mixture and squid.
The pandemic prevented him from his repatriation for three years, however on September 15 the now-25kg reptile was packed into a waterproof crate and boarded flight EI 782 from Dublin to Gran Canaria.
He was accompanied by his minder Portia Sampson, who ensured he was safely passed over to the Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestrede Tarifa on arrival.
Less than 24 hours later, JC became fully acclimatized to his new home and was released back into the sea.
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Aer Lingus previously transported another rogue loggerhead turtle, Leona, to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in December 2014 after she was discovered in County Clare.
Loggerhead turtles are a vulnerable and endangered species and their numbers are in decline in the wild.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) they are “the living representatives of a group of reptiles that has existed on Earth and traveled our seas for the last 100 million years.”
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