Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Turtle stranded in Europe in 2008 to be released by Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota

Mote Marine Laboratory technician Jenna Rouse eases the arrival of “Johnny Vasco da Gama” on Nov. 29.

Mote Marine Laboratory

Mote Marine Laboratory technician Jenna Rouse eases the arrival of “Johnny Vasco da Gama” on Nov. 29.

It took three years, international cooperation and a 4,600-mile journey back to the Gulf of Mexico, but a wayward turtle is returning to the sea this morning.

The endangered Kemp's ridley nicknamed "Johnny Vasco da Gama" was found stranded in 2008 in the Netherlands and rehabilitated in Portugal, according to a news release from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. The turtle was brought to Mote on Nov. 29 to complete his rehabilitation at the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital and to be outfitted with a satellite tracking system by Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

Johnny will be released at 9 a.m. from Lido Beach, the news release said, a short distance from Mote's main campus.

The turtle was returned to Florida through an international team effort by the theme park Zoomarine in Portugal, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the NOAA Fisheries Service, the U.S. Embassy in Portugal, the Portuguese airline TAP and Mote.

Records of European strandings of Kemp's ridleys are rare, but are known from museum specimens dating to 1921 in Ireland, 1913 in Great Britain, 1954 in the Netherlands and 1926 in France. Isolated trans-Atlantic waifs result when Gulf Stream currents transport young Kemp's ridleys away from their usual coastal habitats along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Seaboard.

The turtle was rescued in November 2008 in the Netherlands, stabilized by the Rotterdam Zoo, sent to the aquarium Oceanário de Lisboa in Portugal the following summer, and transferred to Zoomarine for rehab.

Zoomarine staffers identified the turtle as a juvenile Kemp's ridley — a highly endangered species that spends this part of its life feeding in relatively shallow, warm waters of the western North Atlantic, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, which is thousands of miles from where it was rescued. To return the turtle to optimum habitat, the Zoomarine staff worked with the NOAA Fisheries Service, FWC and Mote to obtain special import and export permits and arrange for the turtle's journey to Florida.

The turtle's travels earned him the nickname "Johnny Vasco da Gama," for the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who opened the sea route from Europe to India. The turtle was named "Johnny" in the Netherlands and gained its explorer name in Portugal.

"The most exciting part of Johnny's journey is yet to come," said Sheryan Epperly, sea turtle program leader from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. "Tracking will help to define the turtle's movement patterns, which will then give us a better understanding of habitat use."

Johnny was flown from Portugal to Miami on Nov. 28 in cabin space donated by TAP and accompanied by caregivers from Zoomarine. The turtle was driven to Mote on Nov. 29 by FWC emoployees and was welcomed to his new home by staffers from Mote, FWC, NOAA Fisheries Service, TAP and Zoomarine.

Follow the turtle

Monitor Johnny's travels within a day after the release by visiting seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=141. You can subscribe online to receive a daily email update about the turtle.

• Learn about Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at

mote.org/seaturtles.

Turtle stranded in Europe in 2008 to be released by Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota 12/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 10:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  2. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale

    Corporate

    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

    Weinstein
  3. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

    Gilmore
  4. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]
  5. Editorial: Trump uses Americans' health care as bargaining chip

    Editorials

    Unable to persuade Congress to kill the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump appears determined to do the dirty work himself. The president's unilateral actions are aimed at driving up premiums, steering healthy people away from the federal marketplace and ensuring his inaccurate description of the law as a …

    Unable to persuade Congress to kill the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump appears determined to do the dirty work himself.