French tourists trigger Turtle rescue mission

A major land and sea rescue mission for an injured turtle was triggered by a couple of French tourists when they spotted the rare visitor struggling in the shallows on the island of Skye.
The young male loggerhead turtle, who is missing his front left flipper, is now recuperating at the Scottish SEA LIFE Sanctuary near Oban - the third stranded sea turtle to end up there in as many years. He has been christened "Skye".
Linda Henderson with Syke The French couple walked a mile to the nearest houses, and resident Linda Henderson went back to the shore to investigate. After wading into the sea to get hold of the surprise visitor, Linda (50 years old) telephoned her husband Peter, who was out at sea, and he brought his boat inshore to assist. Linda then swam Skye out to the boat and Peter took him to the Sea Eagle centre at Portnalong.
A medic from the centre drove him all the way to Invergarry on Loch Ness, where he was picked up by Sanctuary marine experts Jamie Dyer and Heather Greig. "We got him back to the Sanctuary at 11pm and it was obvious from a quick examination that he was very underweight and suffering from cold", said Jamie. "We got him into a shallow tub of warm saltwater to begin the long process of raising his body temperature". Syke, the loggerhead turtle being checked by Heather Greig and Jamie Dyer
"Happily he´s already warmed up to the point where blood samples can be taken and tests carried out to make sure he has no serious long-term illness or internal injuries".

Jamie and his colleagues are encouraged by their new patient´s progress so far. "He´s perking up quite nicely", said Jamie. "The wound where his front left flipper used to be is healed over and looks like an old injury".

Jamie nursed another three-flippered turtle called Myrtle back to health nearly two years ago, and was part of the mission to Gran Canaria in May 2006 to successfully return Myrtle to the wild. He also tried to save the life of a smaller loggerhead that washed up last summer on Canna, but which eventually succumbed to a combination of ailments including a serious liver complaint.

Given better news about Skye, the 66cms-long turtle which weighs just 12.5 kilos and is estimated to be between 10 and 15-years-old, is likely to be the first patient of Britain´s first dedicated turtle rescue centre. The Turtle Sanctuary at the SEA LIFEPark in Weymouth, Dorset, features a 500,000 litre tropical ocean tank built specifically to aid the convalescence of rescued turtles like Skye. "It was only completed at the end of May 2006 and currently houses six green turtles from a captive breeding programme," said Jamie. "But it was built in response to a growing number of turtle strandings around the UK coast, and the belief that global warming may result in more such rescues in the future".
"Loggerheads caught up in the Gulf Stream sometimes get carried far north of their migration route in the mid Atlantic, and the warmer our own seas grow the less likely they are to realise their problem until it is too late", Jamie added. "This must be particularly true of turtles already handicapped by missing flippers". Myrtle had to regain her strength and stamina in a smaller tropical tank at Scarborough SEA LIFE& Marine Sanctuary.

"We hope Skye will be fit enough to go to the new Sanctuary in Weymouth before the end of the year, and with luck this will enable him to recover sufficiently to return to the wild by next spring at the latest".

In the meantime visitors to the Scottish sanctuary can quietly look in on Skye in the behind-the-scenes quarantine area where he is being cared for.

For more details, please contact Jamie Dyer on 01631 720386

Press Release date: 25th July 2006

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