Turtle pilot to the rescue

One of our volunteer turtle pilots swooped in to aid in our efforts to save endangered sea turtles. For those of you just tuning in we are in the midst of what will likely be a record cold stun sea turtle stranding season. To date 115 endangered sea turtles have come to the New England Aquarium. We have transported several animals to other sea turtle rehab centers in our network who were willing to help out with this crisis (posts about that are here and here). Getting them to these facilities was made possible by some special people including one of our turtle pilots.

Pilot Mike Mulligan (other wise known to us as the turtle pilot) arrives at the Norwood Memorial Airport.

Yesterday was another busy day in the Rescue department working on hypothermic sea turtles. Kerry and I arrived to work at about 5:45 a.m. to prepare more turtles for a flight to the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital. The show of support during this unfortunate sea turtle event has been outstanding. Those nice folks at the Norwood Memorial Airport gave our turtle pilot a bit of a fuel discount, every little bit helps in this situation. Mike made a significant donation through his time, use of his plane and the fuel to fly to Massachusetts from Baltimore to pick up the turtles, down to Georgia to drop then off and then all they way home again .... that's a lot of Jet-A fuel! The airport in Georgia gave Mike a huge fuel discount (I'll be blogging on that as soon as I get photos from my colleagues at the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital). Thanks to both airports for supporting our efforts so save these important animals.

Norwood Memorial Airport, Norwood Ma.

Below is a photo of the turtles in the back of our heated ambulance. With well over 100 animals we ran out of our nice turtle boxes so we are using banana boxes. (I'll blog on that another time).

In the Photo on the left, Mike and his co-pilot arrive at the Norwood Airport. In the photo on the right Mike opens the plane so we can begin loading the turtles.

Below is a photo of Mike as he reorganizes the plane in preparation for his first class passengers. He tells me they are good travelers and don't make many demands on the crew!

Once Mike had the plane ready for loading, I backed up the ambulance as close as possible so the animals could stay warm until loaded and the doors of the plane secured again. In the photo on the left Mike and Terry (long time NEAq volunteer... 20+years of volunteer service!!!) prepare to load turtles. In the photo on the right Mike and I load the turtles one by one. (Photo on right by Terry Rogers)

Mike is a real pro at these turtle flights. He's been donating his services to us for these turtle flights for years. He didn't waste any time once the turtles were loaded, he jumped in the plan and began his pre-flight check (as shown in the photo on the left). With the pre-flight completed, Mike throws a wave to us as he heads to the runway.

I always wait until the plane takes off before departing the airport. As soon as the plane lifts off I contact the receiving facility to confirm departure time and estimated time of arrival on their end. I spoke to Michelle from the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital as soon as the plane took off - so her team could be waiting for Mike when he lands at the Golden Isles Aviation on St. Simona Island, Georgia.

A big thanks to Mike for donating his time, plane and fuel to transport these animals to other facilities for rehabilitation and subsequent release. This transport happened just in time as 8 more turtles came in today.... doesn't seem to be any end in sight to this endangered species crisis.

- Connie


  1. What a wonderful group of people you have! Such a generous amount of care and understanding!

  2. Wow! We are continually amazed at the people who pitch in and team up selflessly to support our environment. Thanks Mike. I couldn't think of a better way to use your resources. You rock- I mean: you fly! I bet those are well behaved passengers too. One mom and her daughter following the heroic efforts send our gratitude. Go turtle rescue teams!

  3. real-world drama and everyday heroes. So impressed with the efficiency, commitment and effectiveness of these efforts...