MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sapphire the sea turtle was on the move on Thursday.
In the morning hours, staff from the Keys-based Turtle Hospital loaded the 129-pound loggerhead turtle into a shipping crate. The crate traveled via FedEx flight to San Diego where Sapphire has a new home at San Diego’s Living Coast Discovery Center.
Sapphire cannot be released into the wild because she can’t submerge without weights attached to her shell. As she grows, the weights will fall off and new ones must be attached.
“She has ‘bubble butt’ syndrome,” said Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach. “She is unable to evacuate air from her lungs due to a spinal cord injury, so unfortunately for Sapphire, she is non-releasable.”
Sapphire was first rescued in February 2010 with a wound that came from a boat strike, Zirkelbach said. The turtle spent 45 days in treatment and was freed after it appeared she was fully recovered. However, in May 2013, Sapphire was found floating off the Keys.
Of the 1,400 turtles the Turtle Hospital has treated and freed in the past 28 years, Sapphire is the only one that has returned to it.
Zirkelbach and hospital founder Richie Moretti traveled with Sapphire to monitor her health and comfort.
She’s got another 80 years to live and she’ll do that at the aquarium where they help educate people about turtles and educate boaters about how to watch out for wildlife.
The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.
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