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Coral World Ocean Park Team Rescues Sea Turtle At Bolongo Bay Cliffs

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A sea turtle named after an Egyptian sun god flew cargo to Miami this week as local veterinarians and a volunteer worked to save its life.

Coral World Ocean Park said it received a call that a sea turtle had stranded at the bottom of the Bolongo Bay cliffs last month.

Erica Palmer, Coral World Veterinary Technician, and Ryan Firment, an aquarist at the park, responded quickly. When the two clambered down the cliff, they found a sub-adult, green sea turtle lying on its back.

“The wound to its right front flipper suggested an attack by a predator,” Palmer said. “We transferred the turtle to Coral World where our dedicated staff has been providing supportive care, wound treatment, and nutritional therapy which allowed the turtle to stabilize and regain strength prior to transfer to an equipped surgical facility.”

Coral World said the turtle was flown to Miami on Tuesday, March 26 on American Airlines and taken to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida, where it will continue to receive supportive care and possible surgery.

“If the turtle is deemed releasable, it will be flown back to St. Thomas and will be released in the same area where it was rescued,” Palmer said. “If the turtle is deemed non-releasable, it will stay in the care of the Turtle Hospital in Florida.”

All sea turtles are designated as either threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. Violations can result in up to one year in prison, up to a $100,000 fine, and the confiscation of any equipment used during the criminal act.

STAR is a non-profit organization whose mission is “To promote sea turtle-friendly practices and a conservation ethic on land and at sea in the US Virgin Islands, and respond to incidents of injured, disoriented or imperiled sea turtles through rescue and rehabilitation.” This collaboration of NGO’s, territorial and federal agencies, veterinarians, and community volunteers have joined together to provide education and assistance for stranded sea turtles in the territory, Palmer said. “STAR relies on many community volunteers, local veterinarians, and other donated resources like those offered by Coral World, but the most important participant in STAR is you! Please report any entrapped, disoriented, sick, injured, or dead sea turtle by calling the rescue hotline at (340) 690-0474. You can find out more about STAR at STAR-Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue.”

American Airlines General Manager in the Virgin Islands Mark Nelson poses with the crated and travel-ready Khepri at the Miami International Airport on Tuesday. Nelson volunteered to fly the injured turtle from St. Thomas to Miami in an effort to help the wounded animal. PHOTO BY: AMERICAN AIRLINES

Coral World is the only approved Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility in the Virgin Islands and has been conducting and funding turtle rehabilitation since it reopened in 1997 as part of its mission to educate and inspire appreciation for the Caribbean marine environment as well as entertain. A portion of proceeds from every turtle encounter activity is allocated to turtle rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

The most likely assailant is a shark, Palmer said. Sea turtles are a natural part of some shark species’ diets.

While he was undergoing treatment and stabilization, employees noticed that some of the scales on the turtle’s head formed a unique, but familiar pattern. Some quick internet searches turned up the hieroglyphics for the ancient Egyptian sun deity, typically associated with the scarab beetle.

“Khepri is the god of sunrise and new life,” Palmer said. “We found him at sunrise and we thought he was dead and he wasn’t, and we basically got him back from the brink.”

Palmer and Firment first found the turtle on February 28.

About Coral World Ocean Park

Coral World Ocean Park is a marine park in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and is accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA). Dedicated to providing the highest quality of care for marine mammals and contributing to conservation efforts through scientific research, Coral World offers programming to educate visitors about conservation and how they can make a positive impact on maintaining the integrity of the marine ecosystem. Through interactive experiences that allows visitors to get up close and personal with marine life surrounding the Virgin Islands, Coral World strives to inspire the next generation of animal advocates and conservationists. For more information, visit the Coral World website at

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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