World’s most endangered sea turtle washes up 5,000 miles from home on UK beach

The world’s rarest turtle washed up on a beach in North East Wales, nearly 5,000 miles from its home and was discovered by a family out walking their dog

Raphael is on of around 8,000 of his species and found 5,000 miles from the two known breeding grounds of the world's rarest turtle
Raphael is on of around 8,000 of his species and found 5,000 miles from the two known breeding grounds of the world’s rarest turtle

The world’s rarest turtle has washed up on a beach in Wales, around 5,000 miles from its home.

Ash James, 34, was out walking his dog Teddy along Talacre beach in Clwyd, when he stumbled across the rare Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle on Sunday.

This is the world’s most endangered species of sea turtle and is usually found around 5,000 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico, not in North East Wales.

At first, he was worried the turtle was dead, but it moved when prodded.

Experts think that the unlucky sea turtle was pushed off course by Atlantic storms, which affected the jetstream.

The Kemp Ridley sea turtle was alive despite being around 5,000 miles from its home


Anglesey Sea Zoo / SWNS)

Samantha James, 35, Ash’s wife, a wedding photographer, from Holywell, Flintshire, said: “He video called me and at first I thought he was joking. It wasn’t till he showed me that I believed him.

“We were both in shock as they are not supposed to be in these parts of the world.

“I went down there and luckily, I’ve seen before that you have to report these kinds of things and I managed to get the number for the British Marine Life Rescue.

“I called and left a voice message, but I didn’t expect a response. They called me back ten minutes later.

“It was Teddy who found it, she wouldn’t leave it alone.

“She just kept barking and sniffing around the poor thing. We think she knew it was still alive.

“We double-checked the beach to see if we could find anymore but the beach is just too large.

“It was astonishing to find such an amazing creature on our local beach – we all have our fingers crossed that he survives.”

Samantha James, 35, reported the find to the British Marine Life Rescue and specialists found it was in a state of cold-water shock


Samantha James / SWNS)

The couple’s son, Gethin nicknamed the rare turtle Raphael, after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

When marine experts reached the turtle it was in a state of cold-water shock, and has since been transferred to Anglesey Sea Zoo.

Raphael would have been used to tropical waters around 25-30C, not the chilly 8C waters of Wales.

Anglesey Sea Zoo said the juvenile Kemps Ridley turtle, which is too young to determine its sex, was doing well after a critical 48 hours.

A couple were left stunned after finding the world’s rarest sea turtle washed up alive on a Welsh beach


Anglesey Sea Zoo / SWNS)

The turtle was nicknamed Raphael by the couple’s son, Gethin


Samantha James / SWNS)

However, the young turtle is not out of the woods yet, and is undergoing vital care with hourly checks day and night that involve gradual rehydration and raising of its ambient temperature.

The Kemps Ridley sea turtle has just two known breeding sites in the world, both in western Gulf of Mexico.

Frankie Hobro, director and owner of the zoo, said: “We are extremely excited that this magnificent little creature has washed up alive here in North Wales.

“It is fortunate that the turtle was stranded on a beach where it was found quickly, otherwise it would certainly have died.

“Our staff are working hard to rehabilitate this turtle, as we did successfully with Menai, and we hope that it will survive and be able to be flown back and released in warmer waters once it is strong enough.

“However it is early days and a very critical time so we cannot be certain yet that it will pull through.”

The Anglesey Sea Zoo are not displaying the sea turtle, and are working towards returning it to the wild.

In 2008, the zoo cared for another rare turtle.

The turtle is now recovering in Anglesey Sea Zoo and will be returned to the wild if it survives


Samantha James / SWNS)

An Olive Ridley sea turtle, nicknamed Menia, was the first of its type to be reported in UK waters since records began nearly two centuries ago.

Part of Raphael’s name comes from 19th-century amateur naturalist Richard Moore Kemp, who helped discover and study them.

No one knows where the ‘Ridley’ element of their name comes from.

They are also the smallest of the sea turtles, despite growing up to 66cm in length and weighing up to 49kg.

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Adults of the species are mostly limited to the Gulf of Mexico, with some juveniles known to be found along the east coast of the United States.

An estimated 7,000 to 9,000 remain in the wild.

The greatest threat to their safety is humans who collect their eggs and kill them for meat and other products.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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