POSTED: Sunday, July 21, 2013 - 9:28am
UPDATED: Sunday, July 21, 2013 - 9:28am
(CNN) — She's the sea turtle that didn't want to get away.
A rehabilitated Georgia sea turtle who never seemed to want to return to the ocean is finally getting a permanent home -- serving as her species' newest ambassador at Sea World.
The loggerhead sea turtle named Caton has spent the past three years at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island after being found stranded in 2009 and diagnosed as severely debilitated.
After months of treatment, Caton was deemed healthy enough to return to her native waters, but she simply sat on the beach, refusing to go in, the center said.
Staff brought her back to the center and tried to release her again months later, but Caton just swam back and forth in shallow water, then got stuck on a sandbar.
A third attempt last October seemed to be successful. This time, staff put her in a boat and released her offshore, watching her swim away into the Atlantic like a regular sea turtle.
Their hopes for Caton's new life were dashed a week later, however, when she was found stranded on a Jekyll Island beach. She had swum back and didn't want to leave.
"For these reasons, we consider her unreleasable," said the center's director, Terry Norton. "The center receives injured and ill sea turtles for rehabilitation purposes, but some of these turtles have permanent issues and are deemed unreleasable back to the wild. If an unreleasable sea turtle can survive comfortably in a captive setting, the center will make every attempt to place the turtle in a suitable facility."
After months of looking, staff managed to find a new home for Caton at Sea World Orlando. Caton will be taken there next week to be part of the park's new sea turtle exhibit, the center said.
"Caton is a beautiful sea turtle and will be a great ambassador for her species," Norton said. "She is a favorite of many of our visitors and I am confident she will hold a special place in the hearts of her new visitors."
All sea turtles in U.S. waters are classified as endangered species. The center describes a plethora of threats from disease and algae blooms to natural predators like raccoons and sea gulls who nab the eggs and hatchlings.
Human activity also poses problems for the reptiles' recovery. Besides pollution, boat strikes and coastal development, the turtles can get caught in fishing nets or crushed by fishing dredges that are dragged along the ocean floor.