Threatened Sea Turtle Takes to the Skies on Journey from South Carolina to California After Treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium

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Last Chance to Visit Jersey in the Sea Turtle Hospital Before November 19

Jersey, a loggerhead sea turtle will fly from South Carolina to California November 19, 2014

A young loggerhead sea turtle treated by the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program, is about to earn some major frequent flyer miles. Jersey will fly to his/her permanent new home at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, on Nov. 19, 2014.

Jersey was found in September 2013, captured in the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station‘s cooling canal in Forked River, N.J. The power plant workers who found Jersey observed that the turtle was not moving his/her rear flippers and had an old wound to the carapace (shell) above a partial right rear flipper. Jersey was transported to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) in Brigantine, N.J. where s/he was treated for three weeks. Due to an influx of seal strandings and the difficult nature of Jersey’s medical issues, the MMSC decided to locate another facility that could provide Jersey with necessary treatment. The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program stepped up to help with the knowledge that his/her injuries could be permanent. A private pilot who is a member of MMSC’s Board of Directors donated the flight to transport Jersey to the sunny south.

Jersey arrived in Charleston, S.C. Sept. 24 and after just a few days of care, was diagnosed with scoliosis, the ultimate cause of the flipper paresis. (There is limited movement in the lower portion of the right rear flipper.) Jersey’s care has included cold laser therapy to reduce inflammation at the site of spinal curvature, physical therapy on the right rear limb to increase blood flow, and a healthy diet to improve weight and bloodwork which was poor when the turtle arrived. Jersey was deemed non-releasable by the Aquarium’s veterinarian in November, necessitating a search for a permanent home. Within several months, Jenn Nero Moffatt, director of husbandry at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in San Diego, C.A., an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited aquarium informed the South Carolina Aquarium they had a wonderful exhibit in which to house Jersey and had just received federal permits to receive the turtle as a permanent animal in their collection.

Birch Aquarium husbandry staff will fly to Charleston to meet Jersey, work with the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital staff to learn his/her daily care, and depart for San Diego Nov. 19 on a Delta Pet First flight. Once in California, Jersey will be acclimated and eventually introduced to his/her new home, a 50,000-gallon exhibit. Jersey is the first sea turtle to be housed at Birch Aquarium and will serve as an ambassador for his/her species, inspiring future generations to care for and protect our ocean.

You can visit Jersey before s/he flies out to California Nov. 19 by taking a tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital. Tours take place seven days a week at noon and 2 p.m.

What can you do?:
You, too, can help threatened and endangered sea turtles. If you find a sick or injured sea turtle, contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) sea turtle hotline at (800) 922-5431. You can also help care for sea turtles in recovery in the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program by going to scaquarium.org and making a donation.

To track the progress of current patients in recovery, visit our Sea Turtle Rescue Program blog at scaquarium.org. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from the hospital, including public sea turtle release details.

Fast Facts:

  • Jersey was found in Sep. 2013 in New Jersey with paralyzed rear flippers.
  • Jersey received treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
  • Jersey has been diagnosed with scoliosis and can never be released into the wild.
  • Jersey flies to Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Nov. 19.
  • The public can visit Jersey before the flight to California by booking a Sea Turtle Hospital Tour.

For all media inquiries, please contact Kate Dittloff at (843) 579-8660 or kdittloff(at)scaquarium.org

About the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program:
In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program works to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles that strand along the South Carolina coast. Located in the Aquarium, the Sea Turtle Hospital admits 20 to 30 sea turtles each year. Many of these animals are in critical condition and some are too sick to save.

According to SCDNR, during the past 10 years the average number of sea turtle standings on South Carolina beaches each year is 133. Of these, roughly 10 percent are alive and successfully transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital. To date, the South Carolina Aquarium has successfully rehabilitated and released 142 sea turtles and is currently treating 10 patients. The average cost for each patient’s treatment is $35 per day with the average length of stay reaching nine months.

About the South Carolina Aquarium:
The South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston’s most visited attraction, features thousands of amazing aquatic animals from river otters and sharks to loggerhead turtles in more than 60 exhibits representing the rich biodiversity of South Carolina from the mountains to the sea. Dedicated to promoting education and conservation, the Aquarium also presents fabulous views of Charleston harbor and interactive exhibits and programs for visitors of all ages.

The South Carolina Aquarium, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Aquarium is closed Thanksgiving Day, half day Dec. 24 (open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Dec. 25. Admission prices are: Toddlers (2 and under) free; Youth (3-12) $17.95; Adults (13+) $24.95. The Aquarium plus the 4-D Theater experience is free for Toddlers, $22.95 for Children, $29.95 for Adults. The 4-D Theater experience only is $6.95 for Children and Adults, and free for Members. For more information call 843-720-1990 or visit scaquarium.org. Memberships are available by calling 843-577-FISH.

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