A logger head turtle, washed up in Donegal, is departing Dublin Airport today and moving to Gran Canaria.
Three year old Julius Caesar was discovered when he was just nine months old, and is believed to have arrived in Ireland after being 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.
His trip has been delayed due to Covid restrictions, but he's leaving today on an Aer Lingus flight in a specially designed waterproof crate and accompanied by a minder.
Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical, so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option, so his specially designed crate will be securely strapped across a number of seats in the cabin.
Discovered by a local family, JC was named for his fighting spirit and was brought to Exploris where he has since been recuperating in a tropical tank and enjoying a diet of fish mixture, squid and gel in preparation for his voyage to Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre in Gran Canaria.
COVID-19 restrictions previously prevented the repatriation efforts but JC, now weighing 25kg, will today travel south to the Canary Islands on Aer Lingus flight EI 782, captained by Peter Lumsden.
Aer Lingus pilot, Captain Peter Lumsden said: "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.
"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.
"Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he is looking forward to the warmer climate upon landing."
Upon arrival in Gran Canaria, JC will be under the care of veterinarian Pascual Calabuig of the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre who will oversee his acclimatisation to the warmer weather and monitor his behaviour, feeding and physical condition before releasing JC back into the sea later this week.
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.
Loggerhead turtles are a vulnerable and endangered species and their numbers are in decline in the wild. Loggerhead turtles are expected to reach 100kg by the time they become adults. Their natural habitat requires warm shores.