MARATHON (CBSMiami/Florida Keys News Bureau) — A large loggerhead sea turtle rehabilitated at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys was flown by private plane to a conservation facility on South Padre Island, Texas on Sunday.

The effort to transport the 230-pound female turtle on the nearly five-hour flight from the middle Keys to Texas was a collaboration with “Turtles Fly Too,” a nonprofit group that works with general aviation pilots who donate their aircraft, fuel, and time to provide emergency transport for endangered species.

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A large loggerhead sea turtle rehabilitated at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys was flown by private plane to a conservation facility on South Padre Island, Texas on Sept. 26 2021. (Courtesy: Florida Keys News Bureau)

Matthew, named for one of her rescuers before her sex was determined, suffered injuries to her shell in May 2020 from a boat strike that left her unable to dive and forage for food. It’s a condition termed “bubble butt syndrome” by the hospital’s rehabilitation staff.

The hospital strives to successfully rehabilitate every rescued animal and return them to their habitat but in Matthew’s case, it’s just not possible.

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“She’s being transported to Sea Turtle Inc. in South Padre Island because she’s unable to dive. That makes her non-releasable,” said Bette Zirkelbach, the turtle hospital’s general manager, who accompanied the reptile during the flight.  “She will act as an ambassador for her species there at the Texas facility where they see lots of visitors.”

Matthew’s carapace has been fitted with weights, fashioned to adhere to the shell and help the turtle submerge and rest comfortably during her residency at the Texas center. She joins other non-releasable turtle patients at Sea Turtle Inc., located on the Gulf of Mexico.

The organization’s programs are designed to raise awareness about sea turtles and the threats to their survival.

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CBSMiami.com Team