In a statement posted to its website, Aer Lingus said a loggerhead turtle discovered in County Donegal in 2019 will soon find refuge in the sun thanks to the combined efforts of Exploris Aquarium, in Portaferry, County Down, and of Aer Lingus who is repatriating the young endangered reptile on flight EI 782 from Dublin to Gran Canaria.
Loggerhead sea turtle
Now three years old, Julius Caesar, “JC” for friends, was found stranded on a beach in Donegal in January 2019, when he was only nine months old.
Thought to have been caught in the wrong current and swept along the Gulf Stream, he was hypothermic, dizzy with cold water, and weighed only a few hundred grams.
Loggerhead turtles are an endangered species and thrive in a hot climate.
Discovered by a local family, JC was named for his fighting spirit and was brought to Exploris where he has since been recovering in a tropical aquarium and enjoying a diet of mixed fish, squid and gel in preparation for his trip to the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Center (Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestrede Tarifa) in Gran Canaria.
COVID-19 restrictions previously prevented repatriation efforts, but JC, now weighing 25kg, will travel to the southern Canary Islands today on Aer Lingus flight EI 782, commanded by Peter Lumsden.
JC will travel in the cabin in a specially designed waterproof crate, accompanied by his babysitter Portia Sampson, where he will be warm, safe and can be supervised at all times.
Speaking on the repatriation, Aer Lingus pilot Captain Peter Lumsden commented: “It is a pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and ensure safe transport. JC the Turtle security in Gran Canaria. Since they first made contact, Aer Lingus has worked closely with the Exploris Aquarium team and our maintenance and engineering and ground operations teams to ensure that all of the needs of JC are satisfied as we accomplish this important mission.
“Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is essential to its well-being and it needs regular monitoring and shell lubrication, so placing it in the aircraft hold was not an option. Its specially designed body will be securely attached to a number of seats in the cabin.
“Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he looks forward to the warmer weather on landing.”
Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Center
Upon arrival in Gran Canaria, JC will be in the care of veterinarian Pascual Calabuig of the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Center who will oversee his acclimatization to the warmer weather and monitor his behavior, diet and physical condition before releasing JC into the sea later this day. the week.
Surprisingly, JC is not the first turtle repatriated by Aer Lingus.
Another rogue loggerhead sea turtle, Leona, was found in County Clare in 2013 and transported to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria by Aer Lingus in December 2014.
Loggerhead turtles are a vulnerable and endangered species and their numbers are declining in the wild.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), they are “the living representatives of a group of reptiles that have existed on Earth and roamed our seas for the past 100 million years.”
Loggerhead turtles are expected to reach 100 kg by the time they become adults.
Their natural habitat requires warm shores.
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