A loggerhead turtle illegally taken to Minnesota from Sanibel came back ton southwest Florida on Wednesday.
Keepers at the Minnesota Zoo had been taking care of the juvenile turtle since September.
Loggerhead turtles are listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act…making it illegal to even touch one, let alone take it to Minnesota.
Public Affairs Officer with the U-S Fish & Wildlife Service - Scott Flaherty – flew down with the turtle. Sun Country Airlines provided first class airfare, free of charge.
He says he’s been using the trip as an educational tool, of sorts.
“A number of people came by and mentioned that they’d heard the story, or seen it on television and wanted to know more about this turtle, how it got to Minnesota, what it looked like, what kind was it…a lot of interest. And on the plane passengers and flight crew were also interested…I talked a lot about turtles on the way down. And the same thing happened at the Fort Myers airport…a lot of people stopping, peering into the carrier, all wanting to know what I was doing with a turtle.”
The turtle’s new home is the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Nature Center – at least until the animal is ready to be returned to the wild. Flaherty says when away on vacation, people should only enjoy the native wildlife with their eyes…
“Don’t bring it home…it’s not healthy for the critter, and most cases it’ll put it on the wrong side of the law. Under the Endangered Species Act, for example, the maximum penalty for transporting that turtle illegally is up to $100,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.”
Flaherty says the Minnesota Herpetological Society notified his office about the loggerhead after an anonymous person turned it over to them. The investigation into who brought the turtle to Minnesota is ongoing.
Thursday, 11 August 2005 01:00