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. Rays make Hechavarria trade official

    Blogs

    Here is the release from the team ...

     

  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]