The First Oliver Ridley Sea Turtle Arrives At Sea Life Loch Lomond
Sea turtles are known to travel thousands of kilometres throughout their lives, but on November 19, 2021, a turtle named April set out on a life-changing voyage of more than 5,000 miles — but this time, it was by plane.
Thanks to the collaborative conservation efforts of the SEA LIFE Trust and the Maldives-based environmental agencies, Reefscapers and Marine Savers. They could move April (the Turtle) from the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in the Four Seasons Resort Maldives to a new ‘forever home’ in Scotland.
The majority of Marine Savers’ turtle patients are released back into the wild thanks to the pioneering rehabilitation efforts of the devoted staff. On the other hand, some have been severely injured and must be placed in specialised homes overseas – where they can live out their long lives (up to 80 years) in suitable conditions such as those provided by SEA LIFE.
April was discovered lying on the water surface wrapped in ghost netting with a plastic bag around her neck on Raa Atoll, one of the 26 groupings of islands that make up the Maldives. April’s right front flipper had been entangled in the ghost netting, and her left front flipper had been injured by friction from the plastic bag. An x-ray later revealed she had a lung infection as well as probable tears in her lungs.
April’s flipper has healed and her energy has returned thanks to the loving care she received at the Centre, but her continued buoyancy concerns make a return to the wild impossible. Instead, the Flying Turtles Project of Marine Savers, SEA LIFE and its official conservation organisation (the SEA LIFE Trust) collaborated with IAG Cargo to transport April to her new home in Scotland.
It’s a continent-spanning journey that has required an oceanic level of planning and saw April travel first by speedboat, then by plane to Glasgow via London arriving at Loch Lomond to a bagpipe welcome. April’s popularity is rising as the entire adventure will be televised to promote awareness of SEA LIFE conservation programmes at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa – the sister resort of Landaa Giraavaru – as she awaited the acceptance of paperwork and inspections.
Kathryn Angel, SEA LIFE Loch Lomond’s General Manager said: “We are thrilled to welcome April to the Loch Lomond family, she has settled in brilliantly. To have a turtle in our facility once again is a real pleasure. The work carried out by the Marine Savers team in the Maldives has been amazing and its remarkable to see how well April has recovered.
“We are passionate about working with teams overseas to protect and rehabilitate injured and stranded sea creatures. We’re so proud of the hard work and dedication our team has to ensure the magnificent creatures in our waters are cared for and live a happy danger-free life, and April is yet another example of this. We’re so excited to introduce her to our guests once she’s completely comfortable with her new surroundings.” – The Sea Life Trust Team
It’s a sentiment echoed by Armando Kraenzlin, Regional Vice President & General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, who said: “April and the other Flying Turtles represent our overarching conservation commitment at Four Seasons – our responsibility as inhabitants of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is not one we take lightly. We’re delighted to partner with SEA LIFE to offer her a second chance.”
April joins five other sea turtles who have been flown to new homes as part of the Flying Turtles Project, while Marine Savers has rehabilitated and released over 180 others. One of the world’s most successful reef propagation programmes, as well as the Maldivian Manta Ray Project – the foundation project of The Manta Trust, currently the world’s top worldwide manta ray charity – are both located at Four Seasons Maldives. Four Seasons Resorts Maldives’ continuous commitment to grow and do better includes a 2020 relationship with the NOW Force for Good Alliance and EarthCheck.
The SEA LIFE Trust and SEA LIFE collaborate to save and rehabilitate wounded, sick and stranded sea species. The SEA LIFE Trust owns and administers marine wildlife sanctuaries (including Iceland’s first Beluga Whale Sanctuary), organises compelling conservation campaigns, and sponsors initiatives and education programmes that promote the importance of protecting our seas.
Andy Torbet, a presenter for the BBC, CBBC, and Discovery Channel, as well as a marine biologist and extreme explorer, has been tracking and photographing April’s extraordinary trip from the Maldives to his new home nation of Scotland. “I am ecstatic to be a part of this project to relocate April, the first Olive Ridley turtle to call the UK home, from the Maldives to Loch Lomond in Scotland,” he added.
“Olive Ridley Turtles are not native to the UK, but SEA LIFE will mimic the environment that April would naturally inhabit in the Maldives. The reason April has become one of the Marine Savers ‘Flying Turtles’ is because her injuries, sustained through plastic pollution, meaning that if she were to be released into the wild she would not survive as she lacks the buoyancy required to dive for food… I look forward to seeing April thrive within her new home in Scotland and to raise awareness of the plight that Olive Ridley Turtles face in the wild and the ongoing conservation efforts of the SEA LIFE Trust.”
To visit April in her new home, and to view the exclusive film of her journey, alongside more than 1,500 other sea creatures at the aquarium, head to SEA LIFE Loch Lomond’s website here: www.visitsealife.com/loch-lomond/