Rescued turtle takes to the air - FOX 13 News

Rescued turtle takes to the air

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A flight out of Tampa had a special passenger on board Monday. Gertrude is an injured green sea turtle who has three flippers, instead of four.

The endangered turtle went through a year and a half of rehab at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and now it's time to spread her remaining flippers and fly -- literally.

"I think she'll do fine. There's going to be pressure differences that she's probably not accustomed to, living in the water and at sea level," explained Sea Life Kansas City's Aaron Sprowl.

Gertrude is going to her new home at Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium. She showed FOX 13 her boarding pass. She was booked on Southwest Airlines flight 1191 from Tampa to Kansas City, Missouri.

"We have a 167,000-gallon aquarium. It's 15,000 square feet. It's 15 feet deep, so she has a lot of room to move around and exercise," explained Sprowl. "There's about 1,000 fish in the aquarium, so she'll be able to intermingle with all the fish and feel like she's back in the wild."

The 45-pound turtle will never return to the wild. She was found in the gulf off Pinellas County, tangled up in monofilament fishing line so badly that her right front flipper had to be amputated. The left flipper was broken.

Passers-by at Tampa International Airport wanted to get a good look.

"As far as our impact on the sea life, it seems detrimental," said Timothy Dawson of Hernando County. "Even though (the sea) seems infinitely large, we still have a major impact on it."

Gertrude's handlers planned to spray seawater on her throughout the three-hour flight.

"She can exist out of water for a period of time, but it's a big stress for her," explained Sea Life Kansas City Veterinarian Brock Exline. "In a smaller enclosure area like this that's dark, she will calm down a lot easier."

Gertrude would have died had she not been found by fishermen when she did. But now, she has her whole life ahead and that could be a century.

Gertrude got two seats on the plane and Southwest waived the pet fee.

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