SeaWorld caring for endangered sea turtle rescued in NorCal

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SAN DIEGO -- SeaWorld announced Thursday that it welcomed an endangered olive ridley sea turtle that was rescued last month while stranded on a beach near Eureka.

The turtle, named Donatello, arrived at SeaWorld Thursday and will receive long-term rehabilitative care. She has also received care from animal experts at the Marina Mammal Center in Sausalito and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the month since her rescue. Once healthy, SeaWorld animal care staff hope to return Donatello to the ocean.

Donatello was lethargic and hypothermic when found and is estimated to be in her late teens or early 20s, according to SeaWorld. Animal care staff plan to return her to the ocean some time next year in late summer or early fall, when Southern California ocean temperatures are warm and stable.

"We are the only West Coast long-term rehabilitation center for sea turtles," SeaWorld animal care specialist Emily Videtto said. "We are going to make sure that she is warmed up, she is hydrated, is able to eat and once her rehab process is finished, our goal is for her to go back out into the ocean and have a second chance at life."

Although the species is protected under the Endangered Species Act, olive ridley sea turtles are vulnerable to becoming endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Endangered Species.

When the species was last assessed in June 2008, the IUCN determined that its populations in the wild, most often found in warm coastal waters, were decreasing. Breeding populations along Mexico's Pacific coast are particularly at risk, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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