In 1980, the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter took in a group of young Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in an effort to begin an experimental captive breeding program because the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was on the brink of extinction in the wild. Thanks to international conservation efforts to reduce the main threats to the turtles, the wild population increased and the captive breeding program was abandoned. After a 10 year process, navigating through permits of many different shapes and sizes, international laws, and COVID regulations, we were able to transport the last group of remaining turtles to their new homes in the U.S.
On April 14, 2022, the “Cayman 10” as they’ve been dubbed, were retrieved from the Cayman Islands by dedicated Turtles Fly Too Turtle Fliers, Chuck Yanke, Kelli O’Donnel and NOAA Fisheries Veterinarian Dr. Brian Stacy, then flown directly to Orlando for quarantine by SeaWorld Orlando. Since the group were raised in captivity and are non-releasable, they were all sent to zoos and aquariums with high standards of care to live out
the rest of their lives.
This spring of 2023, the very last turtle will be relocated to its final home. SeaWorld Orlando will
transport the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle to Turtles Fly Too partner Sheltair, at KORL, Orlando Executive, where it will be loaded onto a plane and flown by Andy Reinach and his daughter Maddie Reinach to the Aquarium of Niagara, coming into KIAG, Niagara Falls International in New York. There, it will live out the rest of its life in a new habitat, being an ambassador and bringing awareness to the species and the dangers they face in the wild.
Regarding this special mission, Reinach said, “Maddie and I are excited and honored to fly the last of the
Cayman 10 to its new home in the Aquarium of Niagara. We appreciate Turtles Fly Too’s dedication of
this flight to my daughter who is recovering from an accident. Since I began volunteering for TF2,
Maddie has wanted to join me for a mission. With Leslie Weinstein making sure Maddie will be able to fly the last of the Cayman 10, this will certainly be a flight to remember forever.”