Complex Operation Returns Sea Turtle From Wales to US

Gulf Stream carried rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle across the Atlantic in 2021
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2023 4:44 PM CDT
Complex Operation Returns Sea Turtle From Wales to US
This undated photo provided by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in August 2022 shows a newly hatched Kemp's ridley sea turtle making its way out to the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana's Chandeleur Islands.   (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority via AP)

After all Tally has been through in the past couple of years, the VIP treatment she's receiving now seems only fair. The rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle washed up on Talacre Beach in north Wales in November 2021 after being carried over from Texas by the Gulf Stream. A dog walker saw her and reported her to British Divers Marine Life Rescue as presumed dead. Rescuers took her to Anglesey sea zoo, where the Guardian reports she was nursed back to health. "The cold waters of the Northeast Atlantic usually result in certain death for this species of subtropical sea turtle in the winter," said Mary Kay Skoruppa of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. But because of the actions of rescuers, including volunteers, she said, "Tally is alive and ready to come home."

On Wednesday morning, a multipronged operation led by the Royal Air Force to return the sea turtle—named for the beach where she landed—to the US began. A military escort accompanied Tally to a Royal Air Force station on the island on Wednesday morning, per the Guardian. After a blessing by the chaplain, the sea turtle was placed on a civilian plane and flown to another RAF station in west London, then driven to Heathrow Airport for a commercial flight to Galveston, Texas. The return required the involvement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The flight to Texas was provided by the organization Turtles Fly Too, which called Tally's trip its "most complex mission" yet.

Tally will be kept at the Houston zoo until she's pronounced healthy enough to be released into the Gulf of Mexico, probably with a tracking device attached. Skoruppa said Kemp's ridley sea turtles—the smallest sea turtle—are in danger of extinction, "so every individual counts." One of her caregivers in Wales called the recovery amazing. "At first she was completely floppy but after a few days she opened her eyes," Gem Simmons said, adding that rescuers aren't positive the turtle is female. If so, Simmons said, the team is hoping this will lead to more Kemp's ridley sea turtles. (More sea turtles stories.)

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