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Rescued endangered turtles going to Disney World and SeaWorld

25 June 2010 by By Trang Pham-Bui

GULFPORT, MS    (WLOX) – A private plane, carrying some precious cargo, prepared for take-off in Gulfport Friday morning. On board were eleven endangered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles. The animals were found around piers across south Mississippi, injured and clinging to life.

"These were all animals that were hooked. They were in pretty bad condition. Some hooks were found in their mouth.  Some in their guts," said Dr. Moby Solangi, Executive Director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

The rescued turtles were rehabilitated by Solangi and his staff at the IMMS.  He believes the animals were trying to escape the invading oil in the Gulf.

"As the habitat is shrinking, the animals are moving closer to shore, and they're looking for food. They were biting on the bait. This is the largest we've ever seen, animals on hooks," said Solangi.

Solangi's team has saved more than 30 turtles so far, including two oiled turtles from Alabama.

"We can't release them back to the environment they came from, so they're being sent to Orlando to different facilities for safekeeping," said Solangi.

On Friday, nine of the turtles headed to SeaWorld in Orlando. The other two were going to Disney World.

"I think this is an absolute success story," said Solangi.  "So far, we have handled over 200 dead animals and we were finding nothing but dead. Finding live was just ecstatic."

The eleven survivors traveled in style, on a private plane that was donated by the New Orleans law firm of Gauthier, Houghtaling and Williams.

"All the animals need help," said the pilot Jay Tucker.  "It's a manmade problem that's not their fault.  So we just want to do what we could do to help out."

The flight took the turtles to a new life in Florida and out of harm's way.

"I think they'll keep them until they can find a place to release them," said Solangi.  "I think we're proud that we were able to save them, rehabilitate them. That's essentially what we do."

This was the second turtle transport.  About a month ago, five turtles were shipped to Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida. Solangi says some of them were released into the Florida Keys.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.


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