a code for reporting
marine turtle sightings in the UK

Turtle stories

Juvenile loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) stranded at Presall, Lancashire - Julie Ions, Biological Services, Weymouth Sea Life Park

November 2001

On the 29th November 2001, a walker and his dog found a small turtle on its back at the water’s edge along the Wyre Estuary at Presall, just north of Blackpool. The walker took the turtle to his house and called the RSPCA, who collected the turtle and arranged for it to be taken to Blackpool Sea Life Centre. There it was positively identified as a juvenile loggerhead turtle.

The turtle was just 1.7kg with a curved carapace length (CCL) of 25cm and curved carapace width (CCW) of 22cm.

The ambient seawater temperature at the rescue location was about 11°C and the turtle was ‘cold-stunned’ (hypothermic). It was placed in a quarantine tank where the water temperature was allowed to increase by roughly 1°C per day until it reached 19.7°C. During this time the turtle was offered food but showed no interest.

The turtle was transferred from Blackpool Sea Life Centre to the facilities at Biological Services, Weymouth Sea Life Park where more suitable equipment and more experienced staff were available.

The day after the turtle arrived in Weymouth it began to show an interest in feeding on a live crab. The turtle, now christened ‘Shelley’, made a few attempts to grab the crab but could not manage to break the shell. Pieces of chopped crab were then placed in front of the turtle, which the turtle took with no further encouragement.

On veterinary examination by Sue Thornton, it was noted that there were old wounds to the turtle’s fore and rear flippers on the right side that did not require attention and there was slight abrasion on both eyelids. A routine blood sample was taken at this time as well as an X-ray to check for the presences of ingested foreign objects (e.g. fishing hooks, litter, stones etc).

While the X-ray results showed that no foreign objects were present inside the turtle, there was visible evidence of the crab shell that the turtle had eaten during its first few days at Weymouth within the digestive tract. There was some concern among the staff because whilst the turtle was eating, it was not passing faeces.

Since the turtle’s environment was fairly barren, the Bioservices staff decided to introduce some forms of enrichment. As the turtle was fed primarily on dead food, most of the food was given via a grabber, which was moved to encourage the turtle to chase its ’prey’. The feeds were not at set times and the staff ensured that the turtle rarely saw people during feeds in order to prevent association. Live invertebrates were also given as food items and encouraged the use of natural foraging behaviour.

After consulting with Jenny Mallinson at the School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, various “turtle proof” objects were placed in the pool for the turtle to investigate. Items included thick PVC pipes, lumps of hard coral and various substrates including patches of broken cockleshell pieces.

In the opinion of the staff, the turtle appeared far more active throughout the day and more responsive as a result of this enrichment and the various feeding techniques.

The turtle was PIT-tagged in the rear left thigh, one month before the estimated release date.

The turtle was flown to Gran Canaria on the 18.03.02. On arrival, we were met by veterinarian Pascal Calabuig, from Medico Ambiente and taken to his turtle rehabilitation facility. He inspected the turtle and agreed to release it at a local beach the following day, along with four other rescued loggerhead turtles (all from Gran Canaria, one of which had had a fishing hook removed from its throat, while another had had a front flipper amputated).

On the 19.03.02, Shelley weighed 2.35kg, measured 27cm CCL and 24.2cm CCW and was released onto the beach at Playa de la Saliente, Gran Canaria. Shelley’s story was covered by the Dorset Echo, Western Daily Press, Lancashire Evening News and the northern edition of the Daily Mail.


Marine Conservation SocietyThe Herpetological Conservation TrustSocttish Natural HeritageEnglish NatureEnvironment and Heritage ServiceCountryside Council for WalesMarine Turtle Research GroupMarine Environment MonitoringMEDASSET / EuroTurtle.orgThe Wildlife TrustsUniversity of Cork