The Irish Independent in its online edition reported yesterday:
Leona the turtle goes home!
When turtles take flight.
After an epic swim which brought her thousands of miles from home and within minutes of death, Leona the loggerhead turtle finally flew back to warmer waters today.
The turtle, which was found washed up in Co Clare last year, was close to death but was slowly nursed back to health at the Galway Atlantaquaria.
For a number of months now her carers have been desperately trying to get Leona home but were finding it impossible to secure a warm flight back. Cold temperatures in a cargo hold could have killed her immediately.
But after an appeal for assistance in getting Leona home, Aer Lingus came to her aid, offering her a seat on one of their commercial flights back to Gran Canaria and warmer climes. The turtle and her carers travelled to Dublin airport today to fly Leona home.
"We will absolutely miss her but we're just so happy that she's going home. We'll stay with her for a few days to get her settled in and hopefully we'll see her released back into the water before we leave," said Joanne Casserly, who has cared for Leona for the past year.
However, those who have followed her progress to date won't be left wondering about her future. A tracking device will follow the turtle, which is an endangered species for the next 17 months.
"We have no idea where she might go and it will be amazing to watch her. We just hope she doesn't come back to Ireland," added Joanne.
Aer lingus arranged to transport the endangered loggerhead turtle back to her home on the Canary Islands today. The airline whisked Leona to Gran Canaria at 14.10.
Aer Lingus carried Leona in a custom-made lined crate which was secured over two seats in the main cabin.
|© Irish Independent Photo: Robbie Reynolds|
Leona even got her own boarding pass, the airline says.
She was accompanied by Galway county vet Rita Gately and aquarist Joanne Casserley. The lid of the crate was removable to allow monitoring of the turtle’s wellbeing during the flight.
After her arrival at Las Palmas, Leona is to be cared for in a sanctuary until her release into the wild - which is expected to happen in the coming days.
In the ocean, the loggerhead turtle will have a GPS tracking device attached to her - enabling the aquarium and Leona’s many fans to track her progress.
Aer Lingus Director of Communications, Declan Kearney said:
“When we were approached by the County Veterinary Officer to assist with the transportation of Leona, we had no hesitation in agreeing. Leona is one of our more unusual passengers, but we are delighted to facilitate her return to her natural habitat.”