Meet Johnny Vasco da Gama, the Sea Turtle Explorer!

It’s been three years since four-year-old Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, Johnny, has been home to Florida. Thanks to an international team effort, she’s finally made it back.

Johnny is lucky to be alive after becoming cold-stunned in the frigid waters of the Netherlands and washing onto the Dutch shore more than 4,600 miles from home. Turtles that experience cold-stunning are similar to humans suffering from hypothermia. Her trek earned her the name “Johnny Vasco da Gama” after the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route from Europe to India through the Cape of Good Hope. Johnny was rescued and cared for in the Netherlands and Portugal before being flown back to the United States.

Since Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered sea turtle species, Johnny was given extra-special treatment to help save her species. Nearly sixty years ago, more than 40,000 sea turtles nested on the shores of Mexico in a single day. Today, it is estimated that there are only 1,000 breeding females across the globe.

Through her rescue to her flight home, scientists and caregivers did the best they could to save Johnny’s life. On her flight home, she received an aisle to herself, her own temperature control, and even a personal attendant! Travelers on WorldStrides Habitat: H2O programs may learn more about Johnny’s journey as they visit Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, where Johnny entered rehabilitation upon her return to Florida. It was here that doctors found that Johnny was most likely a girl, despite what many people believed.

Before they released Johnny into the Gulf of Mexico in late December, they attached a satellite-tag tracking system to her so they could observe how she reoriented into the wild. Follow Johnny’s journey as she travels through the sea!

Have you traveled to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on our Habitat: H2O program? What was your favorite exhibit?


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