CHULA VISTA, CALIF. – The Living Coast Discovery Center, a nonprofit zoo and aquarium on San Diego Bay in Chula Vista, announced today that its newest coastal wildlife ambassador, a twice injured and rehabilitated Loggerhead sea turtle nicknamed “Sapphire,” is en route from the Florida Keys, via a chartered flight donated by FedEx, to join the center’s permanent marine wildlife exhibit.
Sapphire, a 130-pound female Loggerhead estimated to be a sub-adult (teenager), comes to the Living Coast from The Turtle Hospital based in Marathon, Florida. In February 2010, she was rescued after being struck by a boat propeller. She was rehabilitated and returned to the wild.
In May 2013, she was readmitted to the hospital after being found floating in Florida Bay, near Sapphire Key. The reptile was covered in a “skirt” of epibiota (sea grass and algae) around the lower end of her carapace, indicative of floating for several weeks or perhaps months at the water’s surface.
After several months of treatment, the Turtle Hospital’s rehabilitation team and Florida wildlife officials determined she was not a candidate for release. A search for a new “forever home” began and The Living Coast responded to the need.
Sapphire is scheduled to arrive in San Diego Thursday, Sept. 25. After a day of rest and observation, she will be available for public viewing beginning Saturday, Sept. 27 at 10 a.m. Animal lovers can also follow Sapphire’s journey in real-time on her new Twitter account (@SapphiredUp) and on the Living Coast’s Facebook page. (www.facebook.com/thelivingcoast).
Sapphire’s new home will be in a 21,000-gallon temperate ocean water tank in the Living Coast’s Shark and Ray Experience, with a large glass underwater viewing area that offers visitors the opportunity to get face-to-face with these marine creatures.
All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are currently listed as endangered or threatened by the Endangered Species Act. Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtles are the more common species found along the San Diego coastline, and are featured in the Living Coast’s warmer-water Sea Turtle Lagoon exhibit. As a temperate species, Loggerheads (scientific name: Caretta caretta) are also known to visit local waters during seasonal migrations.
“Sapphire is a real ‘gem’ with an inspirational story of survival and team-work,” said Sherry Lankston, the Living Coast’s director of communications and guest experience, who supported the turtle in her cross-country journey this week. “She will serve as an important educational ambassador to showcase the power of conservation efforts around the world to protect these amazing coastal creatures and their habitats.”
"Having survived a serious boat strike injury and an intestinal impaction, Sapphire is a perfect ambassador for her species,” said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of The Turtle Hospital. “She will play an important role helping to raise awareness about a major threat to sea turtles: boat strikes. We have no doubt that Sapphire will sparkle in her new forever home!"
About the Living Coast Discovery Center
The Living Coast Discovery, a 501(c) 3 educational zoo and aquarium located within the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge on San Diego Bay, began operating as a non-profit in 2010 after assuming operations of the Chula Vista Nature Center. The Living Coast Discovery offers hands-on exhibits and up-close encounters with more than 350 plant and animal species native to Southern California coastal habitats, including endangered sea turtles, sting rays, leopard sharks, jellies, shorebirds, reptiles and a large collection of raptors such as hawks, falcons, owls, American bald eagle, golden eagle, and more. More information about the Living Coast Discovery Center is available at www.thelivingcoast.org or (619) 409-5900.
About The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys
Based in the Florida Keys, The Turtle Hospital opened in 1986 to rehabilitate injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, educate the public through outreach programs, conduct and assist with research aiding sea turtles, and work toward environmental legislation making beaches and ocean waters safe and clean. In keeping with its mission, the hospital is open daily for Florida Keys visitors to tour the facility and learn more. Additional information about The Turtle Hospital and its patients is available at www.turtlehospital.org or by calling (305) 743-2552. The hospital is located in Marathon, just off the Florida Keys Overseas Highway at mile marker 48.5.