AN ANGLESEY team is celebrating “the best Christmas present” just over a week after rescuing one of the world’s rarest tropical sea turtles.
Staff at the Brynsiencyn based Anglesey Sea Zoo are “delighted” that Rhossi, a juvenile Kemps Ridley found by a dog on Rhosneigr beach last week is making “good progress.”
The early stages of rehab for a cold stranded turtle is critical and they can easily die whilst being revived.
Having made it through the first week with round the clock intensive care, the team is thrilled with Rhossi’s progress.
They say the outlook for the tiny turtle is “extremely promising” and so far she is proving to be “a little fighter.”
In its tank, the turtle has now reached the optimum temperature of 25 – 26 degrees centigrade and is showing “vigorous activity and positive signs of recovery.”
The owner and director of the Anglesey Sea Zoo Frankie Hobro said it was “the best possible Christmas present for our team.”
But they also hopes Santa will bring help for the centre in the shape of donations and support to develop its work as the UK’s only turtle rescue, with its growing specialist knowledge.
Cold stranded turtles are increasing due to rising sea temperatures and violent Atlantic storms, and Frankie expects more will arrive on Anglesey and UK shores.
“As a critically endangered species every Kemps Ridley turtle is precious, so we are relieved and delighted that Rhossi is making such a good recovery, although there are still many months of rehabilitation ahead.”
The turtle was found after being sniffed out from under the seaweed by four-year-old ‘Meg’ on Traeth Llydan beach, on Wednesday, December 13. As yet it is too young to determine its gender.
Although it had suffered “significant physical damage” after being battered and pummelled crossing the Atlantic, the team is confident with many more months of care ahead, it should recover and will eventually re-released into the wild.
Turtle Vet Celyn Marshall. of Bennett Williams Veterinary in Gaerwen, said:
“The initial stabilisation period priority for Rhossi was correcting dehydration with fluid therapy, monitoring blood glucose levels and slowly increasing temperatures.
“We are now moving towards support with antibiotics and vitamin injections while awaiting signs of improving gut function and assessing for any less apparent injuries.
“We’ve a long way to go but Rhossi has been a little fighter from day one.”
The Kemps Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is critically endangered, protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulations.
In the 1980s the species was reduced to just a few hundred nesting females at only one site, Rancho Nuevo in Mexico.
Thanks to “ground-breaking work” under Dr Donna Shaver and her conservation teams, a second nesting site has been established in Texas.
But there are still only around 8000 breeding females in the world today, making every individual “extremely precious.” Frankie said.
“Any Kemp’s Ridley that can be rescued and returned to the wild is a major victory for a species which is at risk of extinction.”
Rhossi is the fourth cold stunned turtle rescued by the Anglesey Sea Zoo, and its second Kemps Ridley rescue.
The zoo is now recognised as the UK’s experts for stranded tropical turtle rehabilitation.
It follows the successful rehabilitation of Menai, the Olive Ridley turtle who washed up in November 2016 at the bottom of the Sea Zoo drive on the Menai Strait.
Tally, a Kemps Ridley, was found on Talacre Beach in November, 2021, She was rehabilitated for 20 months before being flown to Texas in September, for re-release, in collaboration conservation teams, at Galveston Beach.
Her rehab and repatriation involved a mammoth pan-Atlantic exercise involving RAF Valley on Anglesey, “Turtles Fly Too”, and the US Fish And Wildlife Service and others.
Tonni, a loggerhead, found on the shore of the Menai Strait, in January this year, is awaiting imminent return to the Canary Islands,
The Anglesey Sea Zoo team says it is “extremely proud” to have successfully rehabilitated the turtles, but relies on basic makeshift facilities, and needs funds for specialist equipment.
“Rehabilitating the turtles is extremely demanding of our time and resources,” Frankie said.
“But we get no external funding for turtle rescues, we are completely dependent on seasonal footfall from the business and voluntary donations.
“We are stretched financially, and desperately need the public’s support, and donations to help with specialist equipment and running costs.”
Frankie also advises anyone who finds a still turtle on the shore to not assume it is dead.
“They can be in a physiological ‘shut down’ due to low temperatures and recover under the right conditions if rescued quickly.
“Don’t assume it is dead, don’t touch it or try to return it to the water, the cold could kill it.” Immediately report it to Marine Environmental Monitoring 0800 6520 333 or Anglesey Sea Zoo 01248 430411.
Rhossi is recovering in quarantine and not available for public view, the zoo said. For help with donations and fundraising visit the Go Fund Me page here