Sea turtle at IMMS starts new life at Sea World

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A beloved turtle that beat the odds of survival is making a big move from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport to Sea World in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday.

Big Mama as she's affectionately known will be on display with several other turtles and Michelle Lady was there as Big Mama was bid farewell. For the past three years Big Mama has called IMMS home. She was rescued in Louisiana waters during the BP oil spill in 2010.

"Big Mama is a great success story of survival she was found almost dead during the BP oil spill and sharks chewed off three of it's flippers and the chances of her survival was one percent," IMMS President Moby Solangi said.

With the help of the IMMS staff Big Mama was nursed back to health, but her injuries prevent her from ever living in the open waters again. At 250 pounds and still growing she needed a new home and IMMS knew just who to contact.

"We have to pay to go to sea world, she will get in free," Solangi said.

Big Mama is moving nine hours away to Sea World in Orlando, FL where she will upgrade from her 20,000 gallon pool to a 250,000 gallon home where she will live with other sea turtles. While it's an exciting move, Big Mama was a bit apprehensive to leave her friends in Gulfport. The IMMS staff and visitors were also sad to see her go.

"It's a bitter sweet day you know big momma she is a great turtle we are going to miss her," IMMS Senior Research Scientist Dr. Andy Coleman said.

One of Big Mama's biggest fans is 3-years-old Afia Ahmed. Ahmed came to see Big Mama off and tell her something before she moved.

"I love you soo much," Ahmed said.

After one last goodbye pet several men lifted Big Mama up and loaded her into a van for the trek to Sea World where the staff is anxiously awaiting her arrival.

"We are excited about providing a long term home for big momma because she is a perfect ambassador for her species she is an injured loggerhead we want to tell people about loggerheads in general and all the perils and danger they face in their conservation issues," Sea World Assistant Curator of Fishes Dan Cookin said.

When she was found Big Mama was given a mere one percent chance at life and now three years later she is moving on to new adventures and new friends.

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