The Qantas Freight team is used to transporting some unusual and precious cargo, but it’s not every day they’re called on to take care of a critically endangered marine animal.
An adult male hawksbill turtle was booked a ticket to travel on QF825 from Darwin to Brisbane last week on the way to his forever home at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast, and it was no ordinary journey.
So what did it take to transport a turtle?
The first step was to build a crate that was big enough to give him room to move but cosy enough to keep him safe in the cargo hold of a Boeing 737-800.
Working with specialist pet travel providers Jetpets, the Qantas Freight team figured out dimensions and logistics so a specially built crate (think a Business Class pod but for a turtle) could be built, with some additional creature comforts including a soft, spongey mat to absorb movement and protect his shell.
Prior to take-off, the turtle was escorted by keepers from Territory Wildlife Park in Darwin to the vet for a pre-flight check, before he was loaded into the crate and taken to Darwin Airport where he was given the VIP treatment by the Qantas Freight, airport and ground teams.
After checking in, the crate was loaded into the cargo hold for the three-and-a-half-hour journey. As always when we have animals flying with us, the cargo sections of the aircraft were maintained at the same temperature as the passenger cabin.
On arrival at Brisbane, the turtle was greeted by Jetpets and SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast staff and taken by road for the final hour-long drive home.
Qantas Freight transports thousands of animals a year, from beloved family pets to sharks, snakes, Tasmanian devils, penguins, a rhino and even a komodo dragon.
Executive Manager of Freight Catriona Larritt said the Qantas Freight team loves helping animal passengers get where they need to go.
“It takes a big team effort to keep animals safe and secure when they’re travelling with us, and a lot of planning and logistics,” she said.
“Our freight team, along with our specialist partners are highly experienced in this challenging work and make the animals as comfortable as possible.
“While he wasn’t upstairs watching the latest blockbuster or enjoying a champagne, our passenger got first class turtle service and took the opportunity for a comfortable snooze on the way.”
SEA LIFE keepers say the turtle is making himself at home, and coming out of his shell, and they’ll be launching a naming competition soon to give him a snappy new name.