An endangered loggerhead turtle called Julius Caesar bagged a free flight on an Aer Lingus flight to Gran Canaria to start a new life in the warm waters off the coast of North Africa. Three-year-old Julius Caesar, or JC to his friends, has been cared for by the Exploris Aquarium in Northern Ireland since early January 2019 when JC washed up on a Donegal beach.
Several hundred miles away from where he should have been, JC was found in a critical state by the Johnstone family during a walk along the beach. Loggerhead turtles should be in the warm waters of the Atlantic where they typically remain without returning to shore until they are between 7 and 12 years old.
Likely caught in the powerful gulf stream, JC was severely underdeveloped and weighed only 1.2kg when he first arrived at the aquarium. He now weighs 25kg and has been living in a special ocean tank since December 2019 but a move back to his natural habitat was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thankfully, just like humans, JC has also been given the all-clear to start going on international trips and Aer Lingus was more than happy to help out.
“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,” commented Aer Lingus pilot, Captain Peter Lumsden.
Instead, JC will be travelling in a specially adapted crate that will be strapped to normal passenger seats on Aer Lingus flight EI 782 on Wednesday.
“Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he is looking forward to the warmer climate upon landing,” Captain Lumsden continued.
JC will be welcomed to the Canary Islands by a team from the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre who will be overseeing his acclimatisation to the welcome warmer weather. He’ll then be released back into the wild later this week.
Think this is a one-off? Surprisingly, no. Aer Lingus previously repatriated another loggerhead turtle to Gran Canaria in 2014 after the turtle, called Leona, was found in County Clare in 2013.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.