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Crab fishers help rescue rare loggerhead turtle near Victoria

A lost sea turtle is one of the most unusual animals ever to be rescued by the Vancouver Aquarium.

It’s only the second time a sea turtle has been confirmed in BC waters.

Martin Haulena, the Aquarium’s head veterinarian, says the loggerhead turtle named “Moira” by her rescuers is a long way from her southern California home. The turtles are commonly found around Baja, California and Mexico, but this far north they are rare.

When the aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Society took her in after crab fishers found her in Pedder Bay, she was hypothermic. Haulena figures she drifted north with the currents into colder and colder water, after straying from her home range.

“They can’t really move too much. Heart rate slows down, respiratory rate slows down, digestion slows down, and then they enter a sort of a comatose state,” he says, explaining what happens when turtles get too cold. “They really are at the mercy of the currents. Wherever the current brings them, that’s where they will go.”

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Moira, estimated to be 15-20 years old, is now stable. Rescuers are replenishing her fluids and slowly increasing the temperature in her tank by about one degree each day to prepare her for a return to warmer waters — Moira and her species prefer temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. When she was rescued, her body temperature was barely over eight.

Haulena says the turtle still has a lot of recovering to do before she can go home, hopefully this summer. He says Sea World in California has an annual release for rescued turtles, and he hopes Moira will be able to be part of it.

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