The Sea Life centre at Loch Lomond has become home to the UK’s first Olive Ridley sea turtle.
Sea turtles are known to migrate many thousands of miles in their lifetime, but on 19 November 2021 the turtle named April embarked on a life-changing journey of more than 5000 miles – this time by plane.
April travelled from the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru to a new ‘forever home’ in Scotland thanks to the combined conservation efforts of the Sea Life Trust and Maldives-based environmental agencies, Reefscapers and Marine Savers.
Due to the pioneering rehabilitation efforts of a dedicated team, most of Marine Savers’ turtle patients are released back into the wild. Some, however, are too badly injured and need to find specialist homes overseas where they can live out their long lives – up to 80 years – in suitable environments like those provided by Sea Life.
When April was discovered in Raa Atoll – one of the 26 groups of islands that make up the Maldives – she was floating on the ocean surface entangled in ghost netting with a plastic bag around her neck.
April was already missing her right front flipper due to the ghost netting entanglement and her left front flipper was wounded by friction from the plastic bag. An x-ray later revealed she was also suffering from a lung infection, with possible tears in her lungs.
Despite the loving care April received at the Centre, which has seen her flipper heal and her energy return, her ongoing buoyancy issues make a return to the wild impossible. Instead, Marine Savers’ Flying Turtles Project, Sea Life and its official conservation charity, the Sea Life Trust, teamed up with IAG Cargo to fly April to her new home in the UK.
It’s a continent-spanning journey that has required an oceanic level of planning and saw April travel first by speedboat then by plane to Glasgow via London, and on to a bagpipe welcome at Loch Lomond. Already something of a celebrity at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa – the sister resort of Landaa Giraavaru where she awaited the approval of paperwork and inspections – April’s star is on the rise as the whole adventure will be filmed to raise awareness of Sea Life conservation projects.
Kathryn Angel, Sea Life Loch Lomond’s general manager said: ‘We are thrilled to welcome April to the Loch Lomond family, she has settled in brilliantly. To have a turtle in our facility once again is a real pleasure. The work carried out by the Marine Savers team in the Maldives has been amazing and its remarkable to see how well April has recovered.
‘We are passionate about working with teams overseas to protect and rehabilitate injured and stranded sea creatures. We’re so proud of the hard work and dedication our team has to ensure the magnificent creatures in our waters are cared for and live a happy danger-free life, and April is yet another example of this. We’re so excited to introduce her to our guests once she’s completely comfortable with her new surroundings.’
It’s a sentiment echoed by Armando Kraenzlin, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, who said: ‘April and the other Flying Turtles represent our overarching conservation commitment at Four Seasons – our responsibility as inhabitants of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is not one we take lightly. We’re delighted to partner with SEA LIFE to offer her a second chance.’
April joins five other sea turtles flown to new homes through the Flying Turtles Project, while Marine Savers have rehabilitated and released more than 180 others to date. Other conservation projects at Four Seasons Maldives include one of the world’s most successful reef propagation projects, as well as the Maldivian Manta Ray Project – founding project of The Manta Trust, now the world’s leading global manta ray charity. A 2020 partnership with the NOW Force for Good Alliance and EarthCheck is part of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives ongoing commitment to grow and do better.
Sea Life and The Sea Life Trust work in partnership to rescue and rehabilitate injured, sick and stranded sea creatures. The Sea Life Trust owns and operates marine wildlife sanctuaries (including the world’s first Beluga Whale Sanctuary in Iceland), runs inspiring conservation campaigns and funds projects and education programmes that champion the need to protect our oceans.
Presenter of BBC, CBBC and Discovery Channel programmes, marine conservationists and extreme adventurer Andy Torbet has been following and documenting the unique journey of April, from the Maldives to his home country of Scotland.
He said: ‘I am delighted to be part of this project moving April, the first Olive Ridley turtle to reside in the UK, from the Maldives to Loch Lomond in Scotland.
‘Olive Ridley Turtles are not native to the UK, but Sea Life will mimic the environment that April would naturally inhabit in the Maldives. The reason April has become one of the Marine Savers ‘Flying Turtles’ is because her injuries, sustained through plastic pollution, meaning that if she were to be released into the wild she would not survive as she lacks the buoyancy required to dive for food.
‘This is why Sea Life have embarked on this mammoth effort to move April, meaning she’ll lead a healthy life within her new home from home at Sea Life Loch Lomond. I look forward to seeing April thrive within her new home in Scotland and to raise awareness of the plight that Olive Ridley Turtles face in the wild and the ongoing conservation efforts of the Sea Life Trust.’
To visit April in her new home, and to view the exclusive film of her journey, alongside more than 1,500 other sea creatures at the aquarium, head to Sea Life Loch Lomond’s website www.visitsealife.com/loch-lomond/