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Conservancy of Southwest Florida says farewell to resident loggerhead sea turtle, Betsy

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has said a final farewell to Betsy, the organization’s beloved female loggerhead, releasing the sea turtle near the Ten Thousand Islands on March 29. Betsy has served as an ambassador for the loggerhead species within the Dalton Discovery Center for two years, providing visitors a unique opportunity to learn about native sea turtle conservation.

Following Betsy’s release, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida will welcome a new juvenile loggerhead to its facilities on March 30. Conservancy of Southwest Florida visitors can help name the new loggerhead by submitting their ideas in person at the Conservancy Nature Center from March 30 through April 10. A committee of staff, interns and volunteers will review the submissions and select a name, which will be announced during the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Earth Day Festival on April 16.

Betsy hatched on July 31, 2013; her nest was originally found in Boca Raton, Florida. She was part of a gender study with Florida Atlantic University where which linked nest temperature to the gender of hatchlings. Her gender was determined while she was still in her egg, and was monitored in her egg before hatching. She was transferred to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida until she was large enough to be released into the wild.

Betsy came to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in March 2014, weighing 1.07 pounds (486 grams) and measuring 14.1 centimeters in length. To be eligible for release into the wild, captive loggerhead sea turtles must have a carapace length of at least 45 centimeters. Recent measurements confirmed Betsy’s carapace length to be 45 centimeters, and she weighed 29.5 pounds. Conservancy biologists placed a flipper tag and a PIT tag on Betsy prior to her release. With these devices in place, biologists will be able to determine her origin and release location, should Betsy be found following release.

Betsy the loggerhead was named after the late Betsy Sandstrom, a long-time sea turtle advocate and volunteer for the Bonita Springs/Fort Myers Beach organization Turtle Time. Betsy passed away from cancer two years ago. Following the sea turtle’s arrival in 2014, the Conservancy launched a social media cont est to help give the loggerhead a name. Upon learning of the contest, one of Sandstrom’s friends suggested naming the turtle in her honor. Before she passed away in 2014, Sandstrom had the opportunity to meet her namesake during an emotional introduction, surrounded by friends and family. Members of Sandstrom’s family returned to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida for Betsy’s release to say a final farewell to the sea turtle.

“We are experiencing many emotions with Betsy’s release because this sea turtle’s story is one of great legacy. Named after such an inspiring individual, Betsy has gone on to accomplish great things at the Conservancy, helping us share her story and spread awareness about the loggerhead species,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “While sad to see her leave us, we are ecstatic to release her into the wild where she will continue to flourish. It has been a joy to watch Betsy progress over the past two years, and we look forward to welcoming a new baby loggerhead to our facilities.”

Loggerheads have a very low survival rate in the wild.  Only 1 in 1,000 sea turtles survives to adulthood. True to its mission of protecting Southwest Florida’s water, land and wildlife, the Conservancy began the Florida Sea Turtle Monitoring and Protection Program in 1982 on Keewaydin Island. Now, in its 34th year, the program has saved more than 265,000 loggerheads. For more information, visit www.conservancy.org/our-work/science/wildlife/loggerheads.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50 year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Fla., 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

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