A loggerhead sea turtle has arrived in San Diego all the way from the East Coast.
After a cross-country flight, the 97-pound turtle, dubbed “Jersey,” landed in San Diego on Wednesday night. It is the first of its kind for the Birch Aquarium at Scripps.
The turtle should be available for viewing by the middle of January. It's currently undergoing routine health and husbandry assessments in preparation for its move to its new habitat in the Hall of Fishes.
It hopefully concludes a harrowing journey for the turtle, which came from the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
“This turtle has already been through so much in its short life,” said Jenn Nero Moffatt, director of husbandry at Birch Aquarium. “We look forward to giving it a comfortable and happy home and sharing the story of not only this turtle, but all sea turtles, with San Diego’s residents and visitors.”
Last September, Jersey was found caught up at a nuclear generating station’s cooling canal in Forked River, New Jersey – her namesake.
Plant employees found the confused animal not moving her rear flippers, and she had an old wound on her shell, right above the right rear flipper.
The South Carolina program stepped in to care for Jersey, and its veterinarians soon determined the turtle had scoliosis and flipper paralysis, which paralyzed her rear flippers.
They started her rehab, which included cold laser therapy to reduce the inflammation on her spine, physical therapy and a healthy diet.
However, caretakers found it would be impossible to release her back into the wild. Thus began a search for a permanent home, and the ocean’s loss became San Diego’s gain.
A director of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps reached out to the turtle rescue, explaining they had a 50,000-gallon exhibit to house Jersey for the rest of her long life.
Through a fundraising campaign, the aquarium raised more than $50,000 to support the housing and rehabilitative care of the turtle over the next year. Obtaining federal permits to allow turtles in their collection, Birch staff flew to Charleston to meet Jersey and learn the ins and outs of her daily care.
According to the Birch Aquarium, loggerheads are the largest of all hard-shelled turtle, distinctive for their massive heads, strong jaws and reddish brown shells.
Adult males in the species can grow to about three feet in length and weigh roughly 250 pounds. The turtles’ average lifespan is more than 50 years in the wild.
“All sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act due to significant threats such as entanglement in fishing gear, accidental ingestion of plastic and other marine debris, boat strikes, and loss of essential nesting habitat,” said Debbie Zmarzly, interim director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps. “This turtle is an important ambassador for ocean conservation.”