News Release
 
Contacts:
Sondra Katzen, Chicago Zoological Society, 708.688.8351, sondra.katzen@czs.org
Preston Rudie, for The Florida Aquarium, Preston@CatalystCommunicationsGroup.com
Bonnie E. Barnes, Turtles Fly Too, 904.463.0513, bonnie@TurtlesFlyToo.org
 
September 10, 2020
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NOTE: Download images below.

 
Critically Endangered Sea Turtle Flown from Florida to New Home at Brookfield Zoo
 

Brookfield, Ill.—How does a sea turtle get from Florida to Illinois? It flies of course, thanks to Turtles Fly Too, a national nonprofit organization that engages general aviation pilots, who give their time and talents to transport endangered species around the world. Turtle Flier Team Member Pilot Brenda Tibbs navigated the special mission of flying Pistachio, a female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, from Tampa International Airport to Midway Airport on September 8.

In 2012, the approximately 13-year-old sea turtle was found in the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key, Florida, where she was struck by a recreational boat propeller. The severe injuries she sustained, including wounds to her skull and the front of her carapace (top shell), left Pistachio partially blind in her left eye. She also has some partial paralysis in her rear flipper, and has experienced conformational changes to her shell—it grows differently now than it should. Pistachio also failed a live prey trial, leading the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to deem her non-releasable back to the wild.

“The mission of The Florida Aquarium is to save wildlife, especially the most vulnerable species who, without our aid, would no longer exist in the natural world,” said Roger Germann, president & CEO of The Florida Aquarium. “Extinction is forever, which is why we remained fiercely committed to providing the best care for Pistachio in order to give her a second chance at life. Knowing Pistachio will spend the next chapter of her life thriving at Brookfield Zoo is not only rewarding for all of us at The Florida Aquarium, but it’s personally meaningful to me because Brookfield Zoo is where I grew up enjoying and learning about wildlife.”

After being rescued, Pistachio was taken to The Florida Aquarium, which is about 120 miles south of Cedar Key. Now, after being cared for and rehabilitated at the Aquarium, including for the past year, in its new state-of-the-art Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, Pistachio is ready for her new home at Brookfield Zoo.

 “The Chicago Zoological Society is very proud to partner with The Florida Aquarium, Turtles Fly Too, and the state of Florida to provide a long-term home for Pistachio,” said Andy Snider, curator of herpetology and aquatics for the Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “She is a permanent reminder of how important safe boating practices and other water-related activities are when in and around areas where sea turtles and other wildlife are found.”

Upon arriving at Brookfield Zoo yesterday afternoon, Chicago Zoological Society veterinary staff conducted a complete wellness exam, including a CT scan, on Pistachio at the zoo’s Animal Hospital. Animal care staff then brought her to The Living Coast where she was placed in her new home—a 36,000-gallon habitat.

Due to the pandemic all indoor buildings at Brookfield Zoo are currently closed. Although guests are not able to see Pistachio in person, once she gets acclimated to her new home, a member of the animal care staff will introduce Pistachio during a special “Bringing the Zoo to You” Facebook Live chat in late September.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Including injuries and deaths from vessel strikes, additional threats to the species are ocean pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, climate change, and oil spills.

“We are proud to assist in the aviation transport of endangered species. Our ‘Turtle Fliers’ donate their expertise, aircraft, fuel, and labor so that the animals arrive quickly with less stress,” said Leslie Weinstein, president of Turtles Fly Too.

The collaboration to find Pistachio a new home and to transport her demonstrates the ongoing conservation commitment from the three organizations along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FWC to ensure the long-term survival of this species for generations to come.

Found primarily in coastal areas throughout the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast of the United States, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has a greenish-grey colored carapace and the underside is pale yellow. It is among the smallest sea turtle, reaching only about 2 feet in shell length and weighing up to 100 pounds. Pistachio still has some growing to do—she currently measures about 1.5 feet in length and weighs just over 35 pounds.
 

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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.
 
About The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium actively participates in and promotes stewardship of the natural environment as part of our mission of conservation. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, The Florida Aquarium provides an opportunity to see over 8,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals, explore complex ecosystems, look for wild dolphins in Tampa Bay, play at the Splash Pad, and more! Ranked #2 Aquarium in North America in a recent USA TODAYS 10Best ReadersChoice Awards, the aquarium is more than a must-see attraction, The Florida Aquarium is working to protect and restore our blue planet on many conservation fronts, including research and rescue efforts that help restore Floridas sea turtle and coral populations and to ensure that sharks continue to swim our seas. In August of 2019, The Florida Aquarium, in partnership with Project Coral, became the first to successfully spawn critically endangered pillar coral in a laboratory. To learn more, follow us on social media at @floridaaquarium and visit www.flaquarium.org.
 
About Turtles Fly Too
Turtles Fly Too coordinates and facilitates large scale “first responder” relocation efforts worldwide. NOAA and other organizations call on Turtles Fly Too to provide air transportation when endangered species are threatened or injured. We engage general aviation pilots “Turtle Fliers” who donate their expertise, aircraft, fuel, and labor to provide air transportation to shorten travel time and reduce stress on these endangered species. For additional information email: info@TurtlesFlyToo.org or call 208-484-7774.



Photo Captions
Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society
3202 and 3218: Pistachio, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has a new home at Brookfield Zoo. He arrived on September 9 from The Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Transportation for Pistachio was provided by Turtles Fly Too, a national nonprofit organization that engages general aviation pilots, who give of their time and talents to transport endangered species around the world.
 
2813: Dr. Jennifer Langan, senior staff veterinarian for the Chicago Zoological Society, examines Pistachio, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, who just arrived at Brookfield Zoo from The Florida Aquarium. Due to severe injuries she sustained in 2012, Pistachio was deemed non-releasable back to the wild.
 
2917: Chicago Zoological Society’s veterinary staff prepares Pistachio, an approximately 13-year-old Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, for a CT scan at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital. The critically endangered sea turtle arrived at the zoo on September 9 from The Florida Aquarium.
 
3044: Upon arriving at Brookfield Zoo on September 9, Pistachio, an approximately 13-year-old Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, received a wellness exam by veterinary staff.
 

Credit: The Florida Aquarium
Pistachio Arrival: In 2012, Pistachio, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, was found in the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key, Florida, where she was struck by a recreational boat propeller. The severe injuries she sustained, including wounds to her skull and the front of her carapace (top shell). Zip tie bases on opposite sides of the fracture were placed to stabilize the fracture and expedite healing. The critically endangered sea turtle is also partially blind in her left eye and has some partial paralysis in her rear flipper. Due to her injuries, she was deemed non-releasable back to the wild.
 
TFA_Pistachio Deep Dive Tank: Pistachio, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, before coming to Brookfield Zoo.
 

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071
E-mail: Sondra.Katzen@CZS.org

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