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World’s rarest tropical sea turtle in a battle for survival after washing up on Welsh beach

30 Nov 2021 5 minute read
Kemps Ridley turtle. Anglesey Sea Zoo

One of the world’s rarest sea tropical sea turtles is in a battle for survival after washing up on a Welsh beach

Anglesey Sea Zoo took a critically endangered juvenile Kemps Ridley turtle into its care here on Sunday afternoon.

The turtle, which staff have named Tally, was reported stranded on Talacre beach near Rhyl on Sunday morning by a member of the public, after which it was transferred to the Anglesey Sea Zoo for specialist intensive care.

Cold stranded turtles often die during the process of being revived and the first 48 hours of care are absolutely critical.

Staff at the Sea Zoo say the early sings look promising, and they are hopeful the turtle will make a full recovery. However, they have warned that it is too early to be sure at this stage because it is still in an extremely critical condition.

Richard Lloyd, the Anglesey Sea Zoo consultant veterinarian provided immediate medical advice, and the turtle has been examined by local Vet Celyn Thorpe from Bennett Williams Veterinary practise in Gaerwen, Anglesey, and blood samples have been taken for analysis.

Upon initial examination, little damage was found to the sea turtle, and although dehydrated, it showed signs of being strong and is so far responding well to treatment. The turtle is a juvenile and it is much too young to be able to determine its sex.

Kemps Ridley turtle. Anglesey Sea Zoo

The turtle is a Kemps Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), and is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulations with just 2 known breeding sites remaining for the species globally, both in the western Gulf of Mexico, making every individual extremely precious.

‘Careful rehabilitation’ 

Tally is currently undergoing initial critical care and careful rehabilitation with hourly checks through the day and night, involving gradual rehydration and raising of its ambient temperature over time.

Although it is currently responding well to treatment, the turtle is in a serious condition from its ordeal and may not survive. Its progress over the next few days should give an indication of its long-term prospects.

Anglesey Sea Zoo are recognised as experts in UK stranded tropical turtle rehabilitation following the successful rehabilitation of ‘Menai the Turtle’ who was in their care for 8 months from November 2016 after stranding at the bottom of the drive in the Menai Strait.

Tropical sea turtles should not be found around the north of Wales. The only native species of sea turtle here is the world’s largest species, the Leatherback Turtle, which is common between May and September when it visits our coasts to feed on the huge swarms of large jellyfish.

Tropical turtles such as the Olive Ridley and Kemps Ridley are more commonly found in temperatures of 25-30oC and at this time of year our local sea temperatures approximately 8oC are far too cold for these tropical species to tolerate.

This juvenile turtle will have lost its way whilst journeying through warmer seas further south in the Atlantic, probably due to the recent strong wind and currents, as sea turtles are known to travel vast distances.

The cold and windy weather here is unsustainable for such species of turtles to survive, and it is lucky that it was found alive, as many of the tropical turtles washed up around the UK are found dead.

It is not the first time that a juvenile Kemps Ridley turtle has been washed up alive in the UK. There have been 27 instances of live juveniles stranding in the British Isles but of these only 4 have been successfully rehabilitated and re-released.

Due to the breeding sites being directly south across the Atlantic from here, and the gulf steam travelling clockwise from south to north, young turtles in particular can easily become caught up in a colder current and get carried off course as a result.

It is becoming more common for mass strandings of juvenile Kemps Ridley turtles to occur on the eastern coast of the USA after stormy weather and there are rescue centres there dedicated to their recuperation and release.

‘Magnificent little creature’

Frankie Hobro, Director and Owner of the Anglesey Sea Zoo says: “We are extremely excited that this magnificent little creature has washed up alive here in North Wales, and it is particularly poignant that this has happened almost exactly 5 years after the arrival of ‘Menai’ who became so famous.

“It is fortunate that the turtle stranded on a beach where it was found quickly, otherwise it would certainly have died. Tropical turtles washed up on our shores may appear dead when they are in fact in a state of torpor, or physiological ‘shut down’ due to the unsuitably low temperatures, and if this is the case they may be revived and can make a full recovery under the right conditions.

“Our staff are working hard to rehabilitate this turtle, as we did successfully with Menai, and we hope that it will survive and be able to be flown back and released in warmer waters once it is strong enough – we will keep you informed of her progress. However it is early days and a very critical time so we cannot be certain yet that it will pull through.

“The Anglesey Sea Zoo believes that the best place for large migratory marine animals, such as sea turtles, is in the wild, and we do not believe in having such species on long term display.

“Therefore this turtle is not on public display at the Sea Zoo, it will continue to be cared for behind the scenes in the specialised and controlled environment which it needs to be properly treated and rehabilitated. Should it survive, we would be delighted to see it eventually returned to the wild where it belongs”.

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Morris Dean
Morris Dean
2 years ago

Da iawn ti Frankie!

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