By: Amanda Narcisi
Each turtle had a name and a number. One was named Donatello, like the Ninja Turtle, and even one of the biggest was named Big Al. Today these turtles got a new life and a fond farewell from The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.
As each turtle was treated with a saline injection and lubrication rub down they each got a little pep talk before they were sent off. They were told to look out for nets, sharks, and even some humans. Some of the turtles answered with a smile and a fin wave.
This story started a few months ago when the sea turtles were off the coast of New England where they were suffering from various stages of hypothermia. The New England Aquarium reached out to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium with their sea turtle program for rehabilitation.
The seven that are headed to Florida was part of a bigger group that are on their way back to New England. During the exams, they wanted to be sure the turtles could forage for food.
“We dangle poles into the tanks and swirl and move the fish around,” says Ms. Romasco, the PPG Aquarium Sea Turtle Second Chance Program Coordinator. “It is like a food buffet for the turtles who are definitely food motivated. But it is also an important test to make sure that the sea turtles are able to chase and catch live fish.”
The Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team is working with Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium for the transport of the sea turtles. The Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team is used to furry friends but is excited about this new venture.
“We are definitely expanding our passenger list working with the Pittsburgh Zoo &PPG Aquarium,” says Jonathan Plesset, co-founder of PAART. “This is a new and exciting challenge for us and we are looking forward to the experiences.”
Also making the trip to Florida is a blind and deaf chow that will be reunited with a retired City of Pittsburgh police officer. Before the officer moved the dog left home and was found a few months later in North Park. The dog will be riding with the Zoo crew while the turtles ride with PAART.
The rehabilitation of the sea turtles was greatly celebrated but did come with a heavy heart and it was clear when you could overhear the crew today discuss the turtles personalities and each one's coloring and size. Saying how one was a fast one or the biggest of them all or even how some were darker than other. It added a human factor to the release of these amazing animals and how they could live for decades and centuries to come.