Florida Keys News
Friday, July 26, 2013
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Reptile resident sets out for Vegas

In an unlikely move, one Florida Keys resident, accustomed to high humidity, will try his luck in Sin City, and on Thursday boarded a plane to Las Vegas.

But this particular traveler wasn't flying first class or even coach, and was actually loaded in a crate aboard a FedEx cargo plane.

The passenger was OD, a 320-pound green sea turtle who lived at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon for five years.

Named for the Ocean Diver, the dive boat that rescued him in 2008, OD lives with a collapsed lung that cannot be repaired and thus prohibits his return to the wild, which is always the ideal outcome, said Richie Moretti, founder of The Turtle Hospital.

So when the hospital issued a request for a "forever home" for OD, the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas responded, and met all of Moretti's requirements for OD's care.

"Our happy ending is releasing them in the wild, but OD going to the aquarium he's going to is the best life that he will ever have, and he'll have people to take care of him," said Moretti.

Not only will OD have better and more spacious living conditions than those available at the hospital, but he will also provide a resource for the aquarium's visitors to be better educated about endangered green sea turtles.

Following a standard 45-day quarantine period for any new animal, OD is to be admitted to the facility's 1.3 million-gallon aquarium to co-exist with other well-cared-for marine animals, including other sea turtles.

Early Thursday, The Turtle Hospital's ambulance transported OD from the Florida Keys to the FedEx facility at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport. The turtle was loaded onto an A300 aircraft for the two-leg flight.

FedEx provided the transportation at no cost, and allowed Moretti and hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach to accompany Vegas' newest act to his new underwater digs.

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