Sea Life Arizona takes in 1st green sea turtle - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Arts & Life

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Sea Life Arizona takes in 1st green sea turtle

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Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012 7:00 am

Ziva the sea turtle is getting a new home in Arizona after a 2010 boat injury left her unable to return to the wild.

The sea turtle was first found off the coast of Florida in May of 2010 with injuries to her head and shell from a boat. After spending four months at the Volusia Marine Science Center, Ziva was taken to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

"There are rehabilitation hospitals around the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast," said Dirk Westfall, Sea Life Arizona's curator. "They get turtles in and their goal is to rehabilitate them and send them back into the wild. Every once in awhile they get animals like Ziva who, due to her injuries, are not releasable. She wouldn't be able to survive in the wild."

Ziva's injuries, which include some neurological damage and a lung that wasn't inflating properly, make it difficult to swim and dive. During her time in Georgia a patch was developed to go on her shell that weights could be attached to in order to help her swim. Even with the weights, her caretakers believe she would not be able to survive in the wild.

Once they came to that conclusion they needed to find Ziva a new home, to make room for more rescued sea turtles to come into the hospital. That's when Sea Life Arizona asked for her and with the approval of the federal government and the Georgia treatment center, she was sent on a 17-hour ride to her new permanent home in Arizona.

"We were looking for a sea turtle for the aquarium because every place that has an ocean tank would like a sea turtle," Westfall said. "It's a great conservation message and it's a great way for us to teach kids not only about the ocean, but about what goes on and how it affects different animals. Sea turtles seem to make a connection with a lot of people. We can talk about the dangers that are out there and they seem to get it."

Ziva will spend the next few weeks getting used to her new environment and learning to associate the aquarium's med-pool with food, so that she can be monitored closely in the future. Ziva is expected to be released into the aquarium's 161,000-gallon ocean tank sometime in March. There, she'll spend the rest of her days with sharks, sting rays and tropical fish. Though some of the sharks in the tank are very large, Westfall said Ziva will have nothing to fear. She's only 35 pounds right now, but she'll grow to somewhere between 300 and 500 pounds.

Ziva is the first green sea turtle to come to Arizona. The aquarium said it may consider adding more rescued sea turtles to the ocean tank if Ziva does well. So far, she appears to have settled in and is swimming just fine with no weights on her shell.

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Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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