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Storm Arwen: A rare sea turtle and herd of seals washed up on UK beach


The extreme weather, with winds reaching more than 90 mph (144 km/h) in some areas, created challenges for marine life, driving some creatures away from their homes.

Among them is an extremely rare Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that lives on Talacre beach in North Wales – about 4,700 miles from its home in the Gulf of Mexico.

Follow National Wildlife FederationKemp’s Ridley is the smallest and “most critically endangered” sea turtle species, and is internationally listed as critically endangered.

Matthew Westfield, Marine Environment Monitoring coordinator in the Welsh town of Cardigan, was first alerted to the turtle on November 28, shortly after Cyclone Arwen had peaked.

Tally, a Ridley sea turtle of Kemp, washed up on Talacre beach in Wales on Sunday.

“If they get caught in the current, they can get carried into deeper water,” Westfield told CNN. “What could have happened to this ship is that it was floating for about a week or so, and then storm Arwen hit it and then blew it off into UK waters.”

While there are suspicions that the turtle may have died, he said normally the creatures would go into “cold-water shock” mode, resulting in their entire systems shutting down.

Westfield said the turtle is suspected to be about two or three years old, as it is the smaller ones that tend to wander further from shore into deeper water. Its sex is still undetermined, as it is difficult to tell at such a young age.

The most surprising element of the discovery, however, was its rarity. Westfield says only 72 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles have washed up in the UK since 1748, according to records, and only 27 of them are still alive.

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The turtle has now been named Tally and is being cared for at Anglesey Sea Zoo in Wales, where it is continuously monitored and has been housed in an incubator, with its temperature gradually raised to about two degrees per day to offset the cold shock.

“Today and yesterday, with the vet’s visit, we secretly hope,” said Frankie Hobro, the zoo’s director, adding that the cold shock caused Tally to “actually die” as they found it. “Things are going very well at the moment, because it’s very contact and go.”

While it may be the rarest species, Tally is certainly not the only sea creature affected by Cyclone Arwen – dozens of seals have also washed up on British beaches, with many malnourished. nursing.

‘Lucky few’

Mayman, British Divers Marine Life Rescue’s overtime coordinator, said Storm Arwen was “particularly bad” and had led to an increase in reports of seals being washed ashore.

“These pups are usually only a few days or weeks old, and are soon separated from their mothers during the critical time they normally feed in order to gain the necessary amount of body fat,” Mayman told CNN.

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She added: “Many of the pups were malnourished, some with a birth weight of around 13 kg (28.6 pounds), suggesting that they never had a chance to breastfeed after birth. “The lucky few are in good weight with little or no injury.”

Mayman’s organization received nearly 100 calls from around the country reporting rescues. She said 2020 has broken records, with more than 2,000 calls in total – and this year looks set to beat it.

Treatable seals are sent to rehabilitation centers, where they are monitored until they gain enough weight to be released. It can often be “very difficult emotionally” for volunteers, Mayman said, to deal with critically injured or unwell baby mice.

A seal named Deimos washed up in the UK this week and was rescued by the British Diving Society.

Although Westfield, who has cared for Tally, says it is “too early” to say whether the animals are caused by climate change, Mayman disagrees.

She said: “Extreme weather events such as this storm are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change, with the most recent event being in 2017 in Wales and south-west England with damage rates up to up to 75% of the pups at some locations.

And zoo director Hobro also thinks Tally won’t be the last sea turtle to wash up in the UK, pointing to a similar case of a female sea turtle found a few years ago.

“We’re having a lot of late-fall, early-winter storms,” ​​Hobro told CNN. “So there’s no doubt that’s why we’ve seen more of these tropical tortoises stranding in the last decade or two and I can guarantee we’ll continue to see them.” see them more often.”

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