British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2015-01-26 16:20:59

Kemps Ridley Turtle dies despite round-the-clock care.

A rare turtle that was rescued in Cumbria just before Christmas has sadly died, despite a period of intensive care.

The Kemps Ridley turtle was found stranded on North Walney Nature Reserve on Saturday 20th December by two young men who alerted John Watson who was on the beach leading a beach clean project for Furness Waste Consortium in Partnership with Natural England. John sought advice from Dalton Zoo who called Sarah Neill, the Cumbria Co-ordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue. John was given veterinary advice to provide initial care while Sarah coordinated a rescue and contacted a specialist vet. The turtle was taken to Paul Sloan at Lake District Coast Aquarium in Maryport who kindly allowed us to use their facilities, while specialist vet and BDMLR medic Vicki Temple provided round the clock care at this critical time.

The turtle was identified as a Kemps Ridley sea turtle which as a critically endangered species is the rarest sea turtle in the world, with only 1,000 breeding females laying eggs in a small area in the Gulf of Mexico some 5,000 miles away.  Sea turtle expert Rod Penrose from CSIP explained that sea temperatures have recently dropped off the east coast of the USA leaving  these turtles stunned by the cold. This results in them becoming lethargic and unable to swim against strong currents or feed and eventually they can move out of the warm Gulf Stream into our colder waters.  Four other Kemps Ridley turtles have live stranded recently but sadly not survived, at Formby Merseyside and in Jersey, Scotland and Holland.  It is likely they were 'cold stunned' and carried across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream.

After a period of care over the festive break and once the turtle was showing signs of recovery, Sarah Neill and Vicki vet arranged for the turtle to be moved back to the Maryport Aquarium.  It is vital that these turtles are warmed back up to their normal body temperature slowly, to allow them their bodily systems to function properly.

Vicki, from Millcroft Veterinary Group, said the temperature of its water tank had to be  increased slowly by one degree each day.  She said: "Because the turtle has cooled down slowly in different waters we have to warm up it up slowly. If you suddenly warm it up, toxins can be released into the body".

The turtle remained behind the scenes at the aquarium as intrenational laws did not allow it to be put on public display. It was intended that following a full recovery and export licences being issued, Rod Penrose from CSIP would have organised its transportation back over the Atlantic to warmer waters.

Although the turtle was able to swim strongly, it was not feeding on its own . It had received fluids to keep it functioning and very often rescued turtles do take a while to return to feeding unaided. Plans were made to begin tube feeding it but sadly it passed away prior to this being able to happen.  A post-mortem will be carried out on the turtle to try and discover what the cause may have been.

A massive thanks are due to to everyone involved in the intitial rescue and on-going care of this very special animal.  A lot of people have given it an incredible amount of attention but sadly despite the high level of care afforded to it, its trip into colder waters probably caused problems that could not be overcome.

Sarah Neill
BDMLR Cumbria Coordinator

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