In 2010 the nation’s attention was on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one that would impact (and continues to impact) the environment and animals that call the Gulf home. One animal rescued off the coast of Louisiana was a female loggerhead turtle. Big
Mama, as she came to be called due to her 245-pound size, has been receiving care
from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, MS since her arrival August 4, 2010.
Big Mama had bite wounds and was missing parts of her front and hind flippers. Because of these injuries, she was unable to swim properly, making it impossible for her to survive in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed her non-releasable in 2012.
The IMMS worked with other agencies to find a more permanent home where she could have a larger habitat and interact with other animals, and so she could educate others with her story.
Caton, a 95-pound subadult, was initially found stranded in 2009 on Ossabaw Island and was treated by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC). In December she was considered healthy enough to be returned to the wild, but Caton had other plans. The subadult female loggerhead was taken to the warm waters of Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Rather than swimming off, Caton just sat there, prompting a return to the GSTC for a few more months rehabilitation. In a second attempt, Caton became stuck on a sandbar after unsuccessfully swimming back and forth in the shallows. In October 2012 she was released again to deep water, but one week later, reports of a loggerhead stranding led to Caton, again stranded on the beach.
Wildlife government officials involved, agree that Caton was unreleasable. Terry Norton, veterinarian and director of the center, agreed. “If an unreleasable sea turtle can survive comfortably in a captive setting, the center will make every attempt to place the turtle in a suitable facility,’’ he said.
Big Mama and Caton will now have a new home at TurtleTrek, SeaWorld along with 14 other rescued sea turtles, including a hawksbill, 10 green and three other loggerheads who have all been deemed unreleasable. These animals will welcome guests at SeaWorld Orlando and will educate them about wildlife conservation. Together they will share the message that conservation is everyone’s responsibility. They’ll encourage each person to make a difference, and become “Everyday Heroes” through their day-to-day actions.
In collaboration with the government and other members of accredited stranding networks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates one of the world’s most respected programs to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return to the waters. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 22,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned – for more than four decades.
So far this year, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 52 and returned 45 sea turtles.