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Species: Kemp's Ridley
Life Stage: Subadult
Release Date: 2011-12-27 04:00:00
Release Location: Lido Key
Last Location: 2012-05-10 15:19:11
Walts Family - Charlotte, NC
Grace S. Hall
Huling's 3rd grade class
Johnny measured 58.8 cm curved carapace length and weighed 31 kg at release (or 23 inches and 68 pounds). Scientists and caregivers from Mote Marine Laboratory returned Johnny the Kemp's ridley sea turtle to the wild following its 4,600-mile journey back to the Gulf of Mexico.
The endangered Kemp's ridley nicknamed 'Johnny Vasco daGama,' was found stranded in 2008 in the Netherlands and rehabilitated in Portugal. The turtle was brought to Mote on Nov. 29, 2011 to both complete its rehabilitation at Mote's Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital and to be outfitted with a state-of-the-art satellite tracking system to provide scientists with the ability to determine the success of the turtle's rehabilitation and return to its natural environment.
Rehabilitation success can be judged by the turtle resuming normal behavior upon return to the wild. Johnny's satellite tag was supplied by Wildlife Computers to reveal his whereabouts and identify potential threats the turtle may face during its movements. Mote has tracked more than 120 sea turtles since 2005, and is one of the few Florida facilities with permits to satellite-tag rehabilitated sea turtles. Mote and NOAA Fisheries Service biologists will track Johnny's movements.
The most exciting part of Johnny's journey is yet to come. Tracking will help to define the turtle's movement patterns which will then give a better understanding of habitat use. By tracking Johnny, we obtain a rare look at how rehabbed turtles reorient in the wild. Fortunately, we can compare this turtle to other wild Kemp's ridleys being tracked currently by Mote andother institutions around the Gulf on www.seaturtle.org/tracking
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 (FWC), NOAA Fisheries Service, The U.S. Embassy in Portugal, the Portuguese airline TAP and Mote.
Johnny's release is an exciting and proud moment for all involved, but more importantly, it is a milestone in the effort to save the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle population.
Records of European strandings of Kemp's ridleys are rare but 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 currents of the Gulf Stream transport young Kemp's ridleys away from their usual coastal habitats along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard.
The Kemp's ridley turtle was rescued in November 2008 in the Netherlands. The turtle was stabilized by the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands and sent to the aquarium Oceanario de Lisboa in Portugal the following summer and was transferred to Zoomarine for rehab.
Zoomarine staff 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, Zoomarine staff worked with 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 it 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.
Johnny was flown from Portugal to Miami on Nov. 28, 2011, in cabin space donated by TAP and accompanied by caregivers from Zoomarine. The turtle was driven to Mote on Nov. 29 by FWC staff and was welcomed to its new home by staff from Mote, FWC, NOAA Fisheries Service, TAP and Zoomarine.
At Mote, the turtle received a thorough medical exam and its health was monitored through blood tests and careful observation. When the turtle was deemed healthy enough to return to the wild, its release was scheduled by FWC , the government agency that oversees the protection of wild sea turtles in Florida.
Mote's sea turtle hospital has treated more than 294 sick and injured sea turtles since 1995. Learn more and support these efforts with a donation at: www.mote.org/seaturtlehospital