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Threatened Sea Turtle Takes to the Skies on Journey from South Carolina to California
11/7/2014 12:34:06 PM

Jersey arrives in Charleston

A young loggerhead sea turtle treated by the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program, is about to earn some major frequent flyer miles. Jersey will fly to his/her permanent new home at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, on Nov. 19, 2014.

Jersey was found in September 2013, caught in the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station's cooling canal in Forked River, N.J. The power plant workers who found Jersey observed that the turtle was not moving his/her rear flippers and had an old wound to the carapace (shell) above a partial right rear flipper. Jersey was transported to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) in Brigantine, N.J. where s/he was treated for three weeks. Due to an influx of seal strandings and the difficult nature of Jersey's medical issues, the MMSC decided to locate another facility that could provide Jersey with necessary treatment. The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program stepped up to help with the knowledge that his/her injuries could be permanent. A private pilot who is a member of MMSC's Board of Directors donated the flight to transport Jersey to the sunny south.

Jersey arrived in Charleston, S.C. on Sept. 24 and after just a few days of care, was diagnosed with scoliosis, the ultimate cause of the flipper paresis. (There is limited movement in the lower portion of the right rear flipper.) Jersey's care has included cold laser therapy to reduce inflammation at the site of the spinal curvature, physical therapy on the right rear limb to increase blood flow, and a healthy diet to improve weight and bloodwork which was poor when the turtle arrived. Jersey was deemed non-releasable by the Aquarium's veterinarian in November, necessitating a search for a permanent home. Within several months, Jenn Nero Moffatt, director of husbandry at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in San Diego, C.A., an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited aquarium informed the South Carolina Aquarium they had a wonderful exhibit in which to house Jersey and had just received federal permits to receive the turtle as a permanent animal in their collection.

Birch Aquarium husbandry staff will fly to Charleston to meet Jersey, work with the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital staff to learn his/her daily care, and depart for San Diego Nov. 19 on a Delta Pet First flight. Once in California, Jersey will be acclimated and eventually introduced to his/her new home, a 50,000-gallon exhibit. Jersey is the first sea turtle to be housed at Birch Aquarium and will serve as an ambassador for his/her species, inspiring future generations to care for and protect our ocean.

You can visit Jersey before s/he flies out to California Nov. 19 by taking a tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital. Tours take place seven days a week at noon and 2 p.m.

What can you do?:

You, too, can help threatened and endangered sea turtles. If you find a sick or injured sea turtle, contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) sea turtle hotline at (800) 922-5431. You can also help care for sea turtles in recovery in the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program by going to and making a donation.

To track the progress of current patients in recovery, visit our Sea Turtle Rescue Program blog at Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from the hospital, including public sea turtle release details.

Fast Facts:

  • Jersey was found in Sept. 2013 in New Jersey with paralyzed rear flippers.
  • Jersey received treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
  • Jersey has been diagnosed with scoliosis and can never be released into the wild.
  • Jersey flies to Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, Nov. 19.
  • The public can visit Jersey before the flight to California by booking a Sea Turtle Hospital Tour.




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