‘April’ enjoying a final swim in the lagoon at Kuda Huraa
‘April’ was first found floating on the ocean surface, badly entangled in ghost netting with a plastic bag around her neck. She 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 infection and possible tears in her lungs, giving rise to ‘sea turtle buoyancy syndrome’ (being unable to dive below the water surface).
A return to the wild was deemed impossible for April, so Marine Savers teamed up with Sea Life, the Sea Life Trust and IAG Cargo to fly April to her new home overseas as part of our ongoing ‘Flying Turtles’ project.
April spent 2 years at our Turtle Rescue Centre at Landaa Giraavaru, treated and cared for by Dafne our resident veterinarian. April was then transferred to our Centre at Kuda Huraa, to be prepped by turtle expert Ale for the long journey ahead. We applied for and have been granted a collection of official documentation, including: export/import permits, a ‘special research’ permit (EPA), a “no objection” statement (Ministry of Fisheries), and a ‘Phytosanitary Certificate’.
On 19 November, April left our care to fly 5,000 miles, arriving at Sea Life Loch Lomond (Scotland) to a bagpipes welcome, and became the first Olive Ridley sea turtle to reside in the UK. In her new forever-home aquarium, April will serve as an important ambassador for conservation, raising awareness of the huge negative impacts of ocean pollution, and the plight of dwindling populations of sea turtles worldwide.
Our ‘permanently resident’ Olive Ridley turtle patients have persistent conditions and injuries that prevent them from being released back into the ocean. They suffer from amputated flippers, and have ‘buoyancy syndrome’, a condition that makes sea turtles artificially buoyant and unable to dive below the water surface. This means they would not be able to feed properly or escape predation, giving such sea turtles an official “unreleasable” status as their release would be considered inhumane (as per standards set by NOAA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission).
For our resident unreleasable sea turtles, we hope to find forever-homes in specialised marine aquariums overseas, and we have been running our Flying Turtles project since 2016.
SEA LIFE staff meeting ‘April’ for the first time
April floats high in the water, unable to dive below the surface.
Ale (our turtle expert) says her final goodbyes. And a big thank you to Dafne (our turtle veterinarian) for caring for ‘April’ at Landaa.
- On 15 November, our partners from Sea Life (Loch Lomond, Scotland) arrived at Kuda Huraa to meet our unreleasable Olive Ridley patient, ‘April’ and accompany her to a new permanent aquarium home overseas. We introduced the Sea Life team to our various turtle and coral projects, and they documented their visit and entire journey with photo and video diaries.
- On 19 November, April was prepared for her long journey to the UK. After being approved by airport cargo, April was loaded into the British Airways aircraft, and kept comfortable in a temperature-controlled compartment for the 12-hour flight. She became the sixth member to join our ‘Flying Turtles’ club, launched back in 2016 !
- On arrival in the UK, April was given a full health inspection at the airport by our team. After the arrivals paperwork was approved, April was loaded into a truck, arriving at Sea Life (Loch Lomond) aquarium in the early morning.
- On 20 November, April was assessed by aquarium staff, and placed in her temperature-controlled quarantine pool for close observation, 24/7. Her behaviours were normal, and she easily acclimatised to the new environment.
- On 21 November, April was offered shrimp, and she started eating without hesitation.
What happened to April, and why did she need your help?
Due to injury, if April were to be released into the wild, she would be floating on the surface, exposed to the sun, unable to escape predators.
How did you ensure the turtle was comfortable?
April’s wooden transport box was padded and roomy (with ventilation holes). She was coated in Vaseline so her skin and shell didn’t dry out, and she travelled with wet towels to retain humidity and moisture.
There were health checks at Heathrow’s Animal Centre; transfer to Scotland was via a special transport van (maintained at 24-26C).
How did you team up with IAG Cargo?
IAG Cargo were fantastic; we didn’t see April until she arrived at SEA LIFE, as she was under the full care of IAG Cargo for the whole journey.
What were they key factors that affected her safe transport?
We monitored April’s temperature to make sure she was comfortable. Her shell loses heat easily, so ambient air temperature is important.
What does April’s future at SEA LIFE look like?
She’s flourishing and very active in the large aquarium. She’s inquisitive and loves people, coming to the glass to see children face-to-face, educating the next generation on plastic pollution impacts.
GM at Sea Life Loch Lomond
“The work carried out Marine Savers has been amazing, and it’s remarkable to see how well April has recovered. We are thrilled to welcome April to the Loch Lomond family, and she has settled in brilliantly. To have a turtle in our facility once again is a real pleasure.
We’re the first in the UK to transport a turtle using IAG Cargo for the Marine Savers’ programme, and we’re looking at transporting more in the future. ”
GM of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, and Regional VP
“April and the other Flying Turtles represent our overarching conservation commitment at Four Seasons – our responsibility as inhabitants of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Baa Atoll) is not one we take lightly.
We are delighted to partner with Sea Life to offer her a second chance.”
TV presenter, conservationist
“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.
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.”