Willy the sea turtle to arrive at RDU today

Staff WriterApril 23, 2009 

You think sitting next to a screaming baby on plane is bad?

How about the poor chap who'll be seated next to Willy the sea turtle today?

The reptile will be on an American Airlines flight from London to RDU and is expected to arrive around 4 p.m. (And lucky for the other passengers, she's traveling in a special cabin on the plane reserved for live animals.)

Willy, who is about 4, is only briefly stopping in the Triangle. Then she'll be on her way to some rest and relaxation at a rehabilitation center in Topsail before she's released back into the wild.

Willy washed ashore in Woolabombe Bay, Devon, United Kingdom, in January, 2007. The waters are typically too cold for these salt water reptiles, but Willy was rescued and taken to the Weymouth Sea Life Park, according to a news release.

Once Willy was on the road to recovery, arrangements were made to return the turtle to her natural habitat in the Western Atlantic.

It took nearly a year to get the correct permits and some major international negotiations for Willy to enter this country.

The sea turtle is a highly endangered species, said Jean Beasley, with the Karen Beasley Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail. Beasley said she couldn't believe Willy survived her tumultuous trip to England. Most sea turtles who have washed up there have died, she said. But Willy has some fight in her. Beasley will meet Willy at the airport and take her to the center.

Willy is being escorted on the plane by Claire Little, Weymouth's penguin specialist.

Once Willy lands, she will be examined by a veterinarian from College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. She'll probably be dehydrated, Beasley said, because Willy won't get food or water on her transatlantic trip. Little can't get to Willy in her special cabin.

Willy, who is most likely named after the hunky Prince William, will then be presented to the media before making her journey to Topsail for a little sun, leisure, and, yes, walks on the beach.

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