Sea Turtle Travels Cross Country By FedEx

Sep 25, 2014

Devin Merriman, Richie Moretti and Bette Zirkelbach get Sapphire, an injured loggerhead sea turtle, ready for its journey across the country via FedEx to its new home near San Diego.
Credit Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

  How long does it take a sea turtle to travel from the Florida Keys to southern California?

Only a few hours when it travels by FedEx. That's what Sapphire, a loggerhead sea turtle, is doing today on a journey from the Turtle Hospital in Marathon to The Living Coast Discovery Center near San Diego.

The turtle has been at the Middle Keys rehab center for 16 months and cannot be released back to the wild.

A boat strike injured the turtle so she cannot regulate her lungs and can't stay underwater. Weights glued to her shell allow her to dive, but the growth of her shell means the weights will eventually fall off.

"She has 'bubble-butt' syndrome," said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital. Turtles with this syndrome float along the surface of the water. It means they can't feed and they're vulnerable to getting hit by boats.

The turtle has been at the Turtle Hospital for 16 months -- and it was her second stay there. She first arrived when she was found floating in a canal in 2010. After treatment, she was believed to be cured and released. But in May 2013, she was found floating off the Keys.

Her new home will be a 21,000-gallon tank where she will be viewed by the public, along with information about the hazards sea turtles face. Loggerhead sea turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.