So long, Chipi!

Despite some changes to Mote operations, Mote’s hospital team is still dedicated to saving local marine life.

March 2020: we’ll remember it as the month that Mote Aquarium closed for the safety of our staff, volunteers, and guests in the face of the spread of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by a novel strain of coronavirus. However, we should also remember that despite major changes to Mote Aquarium operations, Mote’s dedication to marine life and the ocean never stopped.

 On a private beach on Casey Key on March 25, Mote staff brought a subadult loggerhead turtle down towards the water. Known as “Chipi,” the turtle had spent 148 days in Mote’s care before recovering enough to become a good candidate for release. The empty beach was quite different without the normal gaggle of lucky beachgoers who gather in excitement to sea a turtle be released back into the ocean.

Chipi had come a long way since first arriving at the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital at Mote in October 2019. A member of the public reported a lethargic turtle from Boca Grande Pass, and received the honors to name the turtle, choosing Chipi after his dog. Once any turtle arrives at Mote’s hospital, it is considered to be in critical condition, and emergency care begins immediately. Chipi showed signs of lethargy and neurologic issues, and the turtle’s body weight was on the light side. Read the full patient case here.

Over time, Chipi gained weight and began behaving more like a normal loggerhead. Once Mote’s hospital team thinks a turtle is a good candidate for release, they notify and coordinate with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to be cleared to release the turtle back into the ocean. 

Chipi’s release date came amid the outbreak of COVID-19. The hospital team has stuck to CDC guidelines for maintaining a clean and safe environment, ensuring they are able to stay dedicated to Mote’s turtle patients 24 hours per day.

Though Mote Aquarium and other public-facing operations are temporarily closed to protect public health amid COVID-19, Mote’s mission of marine science, education and animal rescue must and will continue. Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital and many other programs continue working around the clock to help ocean animals and the oceans overall, and with the loss of revenue from our Aquarium, support from our community means more to us than ever. Please consider making a gift at or by calling Andria Piekarz at 941-388-4441, ext. 352, to take advantage of a matching grant opportunity for individual donations of up to $500.

Watch Chipi below:

One last measurement of Chipi before releaseChipi loaded in a Mote vehicle for transport from Mote to Casey Key