A loggerhead sea turtle who was discovered in County Donegal in 2019 has found sanctuary in the sun after being flown on an Aer Lingus flight to Spain.
On September 15, the crew on Aer Lingus flight EI 782 from Dublin to Gran Canaria had an unusual passenger in the form of an endangered loggerhead sea turtle named Julius Caesar.
Three-year-old Julius Caesar, or 'JC’ to friends, was found washed up on a Donegal beach in January 2019 when he was just 9 months old. Thought to have been caught up in the wrong current and swept along the gulf stream, he was suffering from hypothermia, stunned by the cold water, and weighed just a few hundred grams.
He was discovered by a local family, JC was named for his fighting spirit and was brought to Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, Co Down where he has since recuperating in a tropical tank and enjoying a diet of fish mixture, squid and gel.
COVID-19 restrictions previously prevented the repatriation efforts but JC, now weighing 25kg, traveled south to the Canary Islands in a specially designed waterproof crate, accompanied by his minder earlier this week.
Speaking before JC's voyage to Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre in Spain, Aer Lingus pilot, Captain Peter Lumsden, commented: “It is our pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and to ensure the safe transportation of JC the Turtle to Gran Canaria.
"Since they first got in contact, Aer Lingus has worked closely with the team from Exploris Aquarium and our Maintenance & Engineering and Ground Operations teams to ensure that all JC’s needs are met as we complete this important mission.
"Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical to his wellbeing and he requires regular monitoring and shell lubrication so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option. His specially designed crate will be securely strapped across a number of seats in the cabin."
Upon arrival in Gran Canaria, JC went under the care of veterinarian Pascual Calabuig of the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre. Aer Lingus posted an update on their social media letting people know that JC has been released back into the sea!
🐢 News from Gran Canaria - JC had a great flight and he’s already been released back into the sea 💚 https://t.co/M5NghrYMxs— Aer Lingus (@AerLingus) September 16, 2021
Surprisingly, JC is not the first turtle that Aer Lingus has repatriated. Another rogue loggerhead turtle, Leona, was found in Co. Clare in 2013 and transported to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria by Aer Lingus in December 2014.