During sea turtle rescue season, rescued sea turtles are always coming and going.

What do we use to transport turtles? Banana boxes.

These unsuspecting fruit boxes are just perfect for transporting petite endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles—roomy enough for their flippers, open top so we can identify the animal inside, easy to come by, and lightweight. Our rescue partners at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary are the ones who got us hooked on the banana boxes. They usually start stockpiling the boxes early in the fall so they have enough to transport each turtle to our sea turtle hospital.

a rescued sea turtle in a banana box
A rescued sea turtle can be seen in a banana box.
When the turtles arrive, they are queued up with their medical records. The window on the top of the box makes it easy to ID the number on the shell of the sea turtle inside.

Because turtles are constantly arriving from Cape Cod during the peak of the season, we have to transport turtles to partner rescue facilities up and down the East Coast to make room for new arrivals. When we pack up the turtles for transport, we make the banana boxes very cozy and safe. We put a liner in the box and provide a towel doughnut for padding.

When appropriate, we also add heat packs approved for animal transports to the tops of the boxes and cover the heat packs with cotton towels to keep in the warmth. It is important to note the heat packs are secured to the top of the box so the turtle never comes in contact with the heat source. Our rehabbed turtles travel in style!

There are several types of banana boxes, but we primarily use Chiquita. Prior to transporting the turtles via plane, we provide the box measurements to the pilots so we know how many boxes will fit in the various planes that we use to transport turtles to rehab facilities. Sometimes you can run into problems with other types of banana boxes getting in the mix. The measurements of the other brands’ boxes are not quite the same as the Chiquita boxes.

A rescued sea turtle in a banana box is loaded into a plane.
Packing up a plane for transport to Florida
empty banana boxes ready for turtles
Banana boxes can be reused several times during rescue season.
In a 2014 article in blue, our members’ magazine, we mentioned that the Rescue Team uses banana boxes to transport sea turtle patients. There wasn’t space in the article to go into the back story of the boxes, so here’s some additional information for our blog readers.