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Anglesey Sea Zoo Turtle Rescue Facility

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Please help us to raise funds to build the first dedicated turtle rescue facility in the UK!

But first, let me introduce you to 4 lovely turtley characters, Menai, Tally, Tonni and Rhossi!

These 4 little beauties have all been cold-stranded on British beaches and have been brought to us virtually dead, all have been revived and have recovered for re-release here at our voluntary rescue centre under our specialist care.

Menai was an adult female Olive Ridley turtle who cold-stranded at the bottom of our drive on the shore of the Menai Strait in November 2016 and serendipitously started our turtle rescue journey. Menai is still a record-breaking turtle as the first of her species ever recorded in the UK since records began in 1748. When Menai arrived on the beach at the bottom of our drive she was in a cold-shock coma and all but dead after a long and gruelling journey from the southern Atlantic. Our team here knew that her chances of recovery were slim but we were determined to do as much for her as we could.

A turtle of any species in cold-shock needs very specific and intensive treatment. Initially, if it stays too cold for too long, or warms up too quickly, it will die. It cannot lift its head to breathe so it can drown. For the first few weeks it needs constant round-the-clock, hourly care and attention with specialist knowledge and experience. Depending on the species of turtle and its condition when it gets stranded, it takes many months, sometimes even years, for a turtle to recover sufficiently for successful release back into the wild.

We are an entirely native aquarium so we house only cold water British species and we had no facility for keeping a full-sized tropical turtle!

However, we succeeded in rescuing Menai and bringing her back to full recovery ready for re-release. Then at the end of November 2021 we rescued Tally, a juvenile Kemps Ridley turtle – the rarest turtle species in the world - when she washed up cold-stunned on a nearby beach here in North Wales. Through our experience and hands-on care and rehabilitation, Tally fully recovered and was ready for re-release back into the wild.

As Tally was a critically endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtle with only around 8000 breeding females remaining in the world, breeding in just one area in the Gulf of Mexico, when she recovered we wanted to release her straight back into the wild in a place where she would thrive and would most benefit the survival of her species.

It took 20 months to finally fly and release Tally in Texas after her rescue, this involved endless paperwork, complicated logistics, daily calls and emails and close collaborations across the Atlantic. In doing so we broke new ground in working directly with Kemps Ridley conservationists saving the remaining breeding population of this critically endangered species in the field in Texas, and introduced new protocols which work to best benefit Kemps Ridleys which cold-strand in the UK in the future.

As a result of our experiences with these two amazing turtles, we are now armed with all the knowledge, experience and global turtle rescue contacts needed to be UK cold-stranded turtle experts and the professional contacts we need abroad for re-releasing them after recovery.

In January 2023 we got another recent addition, little Tonni, a very small but feisty Loggerhead turtle who washed up cold-stranded half a mile from us and has been receiving the same intensive care. Tonni should be ready to fly abroad for release very soon in the Mediterranean or Canary Islands south of us in the Atlantic.

In December 2023 we rescued our 4th turtle from Rhosneigr, a local beach on Anglesey. Little Rhossi is now out of the initial recovery stage and looks set for a full recovery and release. Rhossi is another juvenile Kemps Ridley turtle so - like Tally - needs to be returned to the Gulf of Mexico to the remaining critically endangered population of its species. So we have many months of planning ahead of us with our field colleagues in Texas once again for Rhossi's release.

Here at the Anglesey Sea Zoo we have only natural sea water with native exhibits and while community engagement, sustainability and conservation are fundamental to what we do every day, our only income is from visitor footfall. So our marine animal rescue work with turtles and other species is entirely voluntary and we have to carry the cost of this ourselves, or raise it through our own fundraising endeavours. This is particularly challenging with turtle rescue as often the most critical time we are caring for them is at the most difficult time for us, at the coldest and quietest time of year in respect to staffing capacity and energy costs!

Global warming is causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of Atlantic storms every autumn and winter, and also increasing average sea temperatures year-round which means more tropical turtle species are spending more time closer to our British coasts in the warmer summer season. Thanks to conservation efforts there are an ever-increasing number of juvenile Kemps Ridley turtles making it into the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico. This means that when we get sudden autumn and winter storms stirring up cold currents we are likely to see an increase in the instance of turtle cold strandings of all turtle species here in the UK over the next few years. We want to be ready for them and give them the best chance possible!

There is currently no dedicated turtle rescue facility in the UK and the nature of rescuing turtles means that we can cater from here for a very large area of the UK if we get a dedicated facility built. The facility will contain a purpose-built examination area, at least one purpose-built turtle incubator and one or more large adaptable recovery tanks. This would allow us to have several turtles of different species and at different stages of recovery at the same time, always meeting their exact needs. It will also allow all our turtle rescue work to run more smoothly and reduce the current huge running costs. So although it will not be cheap to build, it will be far more safe and efficient than our current set-up and will allow us to take more turtles and give them the best possible chance of full recovery and release.

Here at the Anglesey Sea Zoo we believe that sea turtles belong in the wild, and we do not believe in having them on long term display even if it were possible to do so. Therefore our turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility will continue to be behind the scenes and separate from the main aquarium, to provide the specialised and controlled environment which it needs for proper turtle treatment and rehabilitation whilst also allowing public engagement and education about our rescue turtles at different stages of recovery without any disturbance to them. Every turtle that we nurse back to health will be returned to the wild where it belongs.

Currently, we will always accept a turtle that needs care but our resources are limited as we do not have a bespoke facility for this. We are extremely limited in every way without any proper area or facility for turtles and limited by extremely basic equipment and conditions. Going forward we need this to change in order to be a proper facility and to save more turtles by giving them the specialist care that they need.

So please help us to raise funds for this facility, to give every turtle that turns up on a British beach whilst still alive the best possible chance of survival.
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Fundraising team (4)

Frankie Hobro
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Wales
Sioned Wyn
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Frankie Hobro
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Martyn Suddaby
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