Flippers crossed for tropical turtle washed up on Iona

Jane Kindlen with the turtle she rescued from a beach on Iona

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A tropical loggerhead turtle washed up on Iona far from its Florida home is showing signs of improvement despite its coldwater shock.

The turtle, which was discovered during a beach clean, is being warmed up and monitored by a specialist care team at Sea Life Loch Lomond who say the creature is showing signs of improvement.

 

Marine medics believe it was blown off course into the Gulf Stream and brought to Scotland’s west coast – thousands of miles away from its normal habitat.

Jane Kindlen, who is a lay chaplain at the island’s Catholic House of Prayer, made the discovery.

‘It was  totally bizarre. Usually it’s dead seagulls or something long decaying I find on the beach. I’d never have expected to find a turtle, let alone a live one,’ she said.

Jane had taken herself off for a litter pick along a beach on the eastern shore and had already collected a big bag of plastics and other marine trash when she went to do a second sweep at nearby Sand Eels Bay.

‘Because it was  such a lovely day, I’d sat for about half an hour and lifted a few buoys that had blown in and popped them in the dunes before I retraced my steps back to the first beach I’d cleaned. It was quite high up in big strands of seaweed when I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. A nano of a second later, I realised it looked like a turtle – and that’s exactly what it was! I knelt down by it and gave it a little stroke by its cheek. It’s eye started blinking at me and its leg began to move.

‘Luckily I had some phone reception and rang a friend to see if she could find a number to help. Eventually we were put in touch with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) who were brilliant,’ said Jane.

To give the turtle any chance of survival, Jane followed instructions from the BDMLR to put the turtle into a box, get her car and take it over to Mull where it was picked up and taken to the aquarium at Tobermory to spend the night.

The next day its long journey continued and it left the island on the first ferry over to Oban where it was transferred to Sealife Centre Loch Lomond.

‘They told me it must’ve been blown in on the Gulf Stream from Florida. That’s quite a journey! That’ll be my claim to fame now, rescuing a turtle washed up on Iona!’ said Jane.

Sea Life Loch Lomond’s general manager Kathryn Angel told The Oban Times: ‘Our specialist animal care team continue working hard to monitor and treat the turtle, get its temperature up. It is a slow process and there is still a long way to go but we are starting to see some improvement.’

Tropical turtles do wash up in the UK from time to time and are usually smaller, weaker animals that have possibly been pushed off course into the Gulf Stream and end up out of their normal habitat, says BDMLR experts.

Because they are are cold-blooded creatures, they can get severely hypothermic, malnourished and dehydrated as their body shuts down due to the cold water.

Some turtles who do survive being washed up on our shores can eventually be returned to the wild in hotter climates – flippers crossed!

‘Massive thank you to all parties involved, everyone really came together to help this turtle and give it the best chance of survival, we couldn’t be more grateful!’ said a BDMLR Facebook post.