Endangered sea turtle embarks on ‘complex mission’ back to Texas after current takes it across ocean to Wales

Turtle rescue group calls it ‘furthest and most complex mission ever flown’

Tally the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

One of the most endangered sea turtles in the world is coming to Texas this month, two years after she was swept up in a current and carried across the Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Tally washed up on the shores of Northern Wales in 2021 where she was found stranded and near death.

Tally was spotted by a dog walker and reported as “presumed dead” to the local British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue.

“The cold waters of the Northeast Atlantic usually result in certain death for this species of subtropical sea turtle in the winter,” said USFWS Texas Sea Turtle Coordinator Mary Kay Skoruppa.

After Talley was spotted on the coast, she was rehabilitated at the Anglesey Sea Zoo in Wales before it was decided that she was healthy enough to return home — however, getting her back to Texas has proven to be a massive undertaking.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates the transport of listed species to ensure that international trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild, the press release states.

So Tally had to get a permit to clear the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement wildlife inspectors in the U.S.

Then, Turtles Fly Too, an organization that connects pilots with sea turtles that need rescue flights, had to coordinate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in order to help facilitate Tally’s return home.

Ken Andrews of Turtles Fly Too described this as their “furthest and most complex mission ever flown.”

The Royal Air Force also offered their facilities to help with the return mission.

Once Tally arrives back in the U.S., she will be transferred to the Houston Zoo, where veterinarians will ensure she’s healthy enough to be released into the wild. Once she’s approved for release, researchers from Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research will attach a tracking device to monitor Tally’s movements.

“We are incredibly thankful for all the volunteers and partners who have given Tally a second chance at life; from the dog walker in Wales who reported the turtle, to Turtles Fly Too who are generously flying her back to Texas. We hope that Tally will grow to maturity and return to nest on a Texas beach in a few years to help ensure her species’ survival into the future,” said Skoruppa.

Donna Shaver, the Texas Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator from Padre Island National Seashore, is planning to head to Galveston in September to help release Tally back into the wild.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest and one of the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world, according to the USFWS.

A press release from the USFWS says Kemp’s ridley turtles are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico and coastal waters of eastern North America. The juvenile Kemp’s ridleys sometimes get swept up in powerful Gulf Stream currents and are then carried all the way across the Atlantic.

If you find an injured, stranded, or nesting sea turtle, you’re asked to call 1-866-TURTLE-5.

About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.