Leona washed up on Irish shores after she went into a state of cold stun as a result of getting lost and entering waters far too cold for a loggerhead turtle. While this would normally result in the death of the turtle, Leona was able to endure the temperatures because she was young and healthy. However, when she was brought in to Atlantaquaria, she was in a very bad condition after her ordeal: Leona was dehydrated, malnourished, severely bruised, so weak she was barely able to move and even had pneumonia. Her body temperature was critically low, less than half the average of 25°C for a loggerhead turtle.
The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is a marine reptile, normally found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and also the Mediterranean Sea (see Wikipedia for more detailed information). Spending the majority of their lives in the water, loggerheads typically have a lifespan of 47-67 years, only coming ashore briefly to lay eggs in nest sites. The species is ranked as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. The species is threatened by factors such as pollution, trawling and development on their nesting grounds.
Restoring the plucky turtle to good health was not straightforward. She didn’t eat for her first month in care and was put on antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Her temperature was increased about 2 degrees a day, as to raise it faster would have been detrimental to her health. Slowly but surely, Leona’s strength recovered until she was ready to return to sea.
As Leona is a loggerhead turtle, she is most likely from either the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, but we can’t know which for certain. In order to get her home safe, Leona has been released into the warm waters of the Canary Islands, equipped with a tracker that gives 250 readings a day, recording information about her location and the temperature of the water she swims in. The loggerhead turtle is an endangered species, so it is crucial that we obtain as much information as possible on their behaviour in order to give us the best chance to save them. This element of biodiversity protection is a cornerstone of our philosophy here at Celestial Green Ventures, which is why we have taken such an interest in this story.
• Leona is named after the Leon XIII, a French barque that ran aground in 1907 on the bay where Leona was found.
• Loggerhead turtles mature anywhere between 15 & 35 years of age. Leona is believed to be about 15 years old.
• At 3 feet/1 metre, they are the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world.
• They can swim at speeds up to 15mph (24km/h).
• They are the most common type of turtle in the US, but have been steadily declining for decades. The biggest threats to their habitat are pollution, shrimp trawling, and construction.
• They are mainly found around the Caribbean & Mediterranean.