WHO: Tally, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle; a Welsh Good Samaritan; and a host of government, university, and nonprofit organizations.
WHAT: The end of a saga that took one of the world’s rarest sea turtles from her home in the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the coast of Wales—and back.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: Generally, if an animal gets swept up in a strong Gulf current and deposited somewhere many thousands of miles from home, it’s not a story that has a happy ending. And when the animal in question is among the most endangered species in the world, the stakes are heightened—but it’s all good news in the two-year, four-thousand-mile odyssey of Tally.
Tally was found back in November 2021 on the shore of North Wales’s tiny Talacre Beach, which is 4,636 miles from Galveston—the sort of beach where one is more likely to encounter a Gulf turtle. She was spotted by Ashley James, a passerby who was walking his border collie; upon seeing the turtle washed up on the sand, the dog, Teddy, “started making a fuss,” as James later told the BBC. The Good Samaritan called the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, warning them that Tally appeared to be dead. After the turtle arrived at the Anglesey Sea Zoo, an aquarium and research facility fifty miles west of Talacre, biologists realized that she had survived. Thus began a months-long process of nursing Tally back to health.
After convalescence in Wales, the next phase of Tally’s rehab project was to get her back to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This process began more than a year ago, but repatriating a sea turtle that washes up thousands of miles from home is no easy task. According to an interview given last week by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service sea turtle coordinator Mary Kay Skoruppa, finding the partners to transport and care for Tally along the way took a great deal of coordination. In the end, she was taken from Anglesey by the Royal Air Force and the Idaho-based nonprofit Turtles Fly Too, which coordinates resources in these exact circumstances, to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston, before being transferred to the Houston Zoo. After a brief stay at the zoo, Tally was transferred yet again, this time into the custody of the Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research at Texas A&M’s Galveston campus.
Then, on Tuesday, Tally’s journey finally reached its culmination, as she was released back into the Gulf. She’s now wearing a satellite tag that will allow scientists to track her whereabouts. A small crowd gathered to see her off, and one onlooker even flew a Welsh flag.
Texas is at the northern edge of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle’s nesting range—while they’re native to Texas, they more commonly lay eggs on the coast of Mexico—but when Tally finds the other Texan turtles, we suspect she’ll have quite a story to tell.