A turtle has travelled nearly 2,000 miles from Scarborough to the Azores, to be released back into the ocean following a successful rehabilitation programme with SEA LIFE. The Loggerhead Turtle was discovered washed up on a beach on the Scottish island of Iona back in January 2022, severely underweight and struggling to survive in 10ºC water.
Through British Divers Marine Life Rescue, SEA LIFE Loch Lomond were contacted and, with the help of Mull Aquarium, zoo vets and a specialist animal health team, they were able to attend to Iona, who was named after the isle she was found upon, administering vital fluids for rehydration and specialist care.
As turtles are cold-blooded, they can become severely hypothermic, malnourished and dehydrated as their body shuts down due to the cold water. Many wash up dead, but if found alive, the turtles can undergo rehabilitation so that they can eventually be returned to the wild.
When Iona arrived at SEA LIFE Loch Lomond, she was cold-stunned and heavily dehydrated, as well as being the smallest live stranded Loggerhead turtle to be recorded in the UK. The dedicated animal care team warmed her up very gradually and set about stabilising her while continuing ongoing assessment, before she was eventually relocated to SEA LIFE Scarborough on 16 May 2022 to receive further care and rehabilitation.
From then on, Iona called Scarborough her home, where the team continued to care for her until she was released back into the ocean this October. Following the dedicated and bespoke care regime, at the time of release Iona’s weight was 21kg, up from the 2.3kg upon her initial rescue – an increase of over ten times the weight she was originally found at.
This month, Iona travelled roughly 1,700 miles to the Azores, Portugal, where she was released into the ocean to live out the rest of her days, thanks to the amazing help of the dedicated SEA LIFE welfare team who worked tirelessly on her rehabilitation.
Iona’s successful return to the ocean was carried out in partnership with Flying Sharks, a company dedicated to promoting sustainable use of the ocean. Flying Sharks, who operate Porto Pim aquarium in conjunction with the Portuguese government, have successfully rehabilitated and released a large number of stranded sea turtles around the Azores making them the perfect partner for Iona’s release.
Todd German, Curator at SEA LIFE Scarborough, said:
“We feel incredibly proud to see Iona return to the ocean. She was in extremely poor physical health when she washed up in Scotland earlier last year, so to see the journey she has been on in that time period has been amazing.
SEA LIFE is proud to have more than 30 years experience rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing turtles into the wild and it is hugely rewarding to nurture very sick animals through bespoke rehabilitation and care to ensure they are healthy enough to be released.
“In the case of Iona, she simply would not have survived if it wasn’t for the aid of the person who called in the original sighting, the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, zoo vets and SEA LIFE’s specialist animal health team.”
Graham McGrath, who heads up the SEA LIFE TRUST charity said, “It’s fantastic to see Iona’s health and fitness improve so much during her rehabilitation with SEA LIFE, and I’m delighted that she has been able to return to the ocean.
“SEA LIFE and the SEA LIFE TRUST have a vision of oceans that are healthy, protected, and full of diverse, wonderful animals, and the rehabilitation of Iona is another important action as part of our journey, as we continue our joint focus to protect our oceans and the amazing marine life within them.”