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Turtle found injured off Boca last year headed to new home

By Staff | May 6, 2009

Mote Marine Laboratory has bid a fond farewell to Teddy, a green sea turtle found injured off Boca Grande last year and rehabilitated at Mote.
Because of an old wound, Teddy had a condition that made him a poor candidate for release to the wild. Instead, Teddy will help educate Nebraskans about green sea turtles and efforts to conserve their species from a new home at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb.
Teddy was flown to his new home by FedEx on Friday, May 1.
The 30-pound juvenile turtle was found injured and stranded in January 2008. An old wound from a boat strike causes Teddy’s rear end to float, leaving him unable to dive and hindering his ability to survive in the wild. It also left him vulnerable to additional boat strikes in the wild. For these reasons, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency that regulates the protection and rehabilitation of these animals, decided that Teddy should not be released to his natural habitat.
“It’s just the nature of how the shell has healed – Teddy’s a floater,” said Lynne Byrd, animal care coordinator for Mote’s marine mammals and sea turtles. “He’s a non-releasable turtle, so we need to give him a permanent home.”
Mote’s Sea Turtle Hospital has recently filled up, housing 11 turtles, including many rescued by wildlife stranding authorities on Florida’s east coast. Others were rescued by Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, a 24-hour response service for stranded marine mammals and sea turtles. Mote’s goals are to rehab this protected and endangered species and return them to the wild. Sometimes, though, that’s not possible and new permanent homes must be found.
The Henry Doorly Zoo offered to house Teddy for life at its Walter and Suzanne Scott Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium.
“We had the space, and we wanted to help out with the placement of non-releasable turtles,” said Stephanie Huettner, Omaha Zoo’s assistant animal curator.
Huettner and an Omaha Zoo aquarist accompanied Teddy more than 1,200 miles on the journey to his new home after working with Mote staff to prepare Teddy for the trip. Teddy traveled atop soft bedding in a sturdy dog crate as handlers rubbed his shell with petroleum jelly to help keep his skin moist.
Teddy did just fine during the FedEx plane ride and began feeding when he arrived at the zoo. “Teddy’s doing great, but we probably won’t put him on display for about a year,” said Huettner. “We want to get him accustomed to our training and feeding.”
Teddy will eventually join another green turtle and a loggerhead turtle in a reef exhibit, Huettner said. Huettner hopes Teddy’s “great story” of rehabilitation and travel will inspire those who visit him to learn about sea turtles, which she said are “animals that many people who live in Omaha would never otherwise see.”

Source: Mote Marine Laboratory