Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru Bids Goodbye to Elsa, the Historic 5th "Flying Turtle"
On September 13, 2017, Elsa, a female juvenile olive ridley turtle estimated under 20 years of age, became the fifth"‘flying turtle" to travel from the Maldives by plane to begin a new life overseas.
Donated to St. Petersburg’s Planeta-Neptun, Russia’s first Oceanarium, Elsa follows in the pioneering flipper-steps of her olive ridley cousins – Kerry, Zahiya, La Petite and Peggy, the original "flying turtles" who made Maldivian and European history in August 2016 when they became the first live turtles to be flown overseas from the Maldives for rehabilitation purposes, and the first olive ridleys to be represented in a European facility (Belgium’s Pairi Daiza Zoo).
Like her flying cousins before her, Elsa was a long-term resident of
Deemed "non-releasable" (based on international standards), Elsa made her epic journey to St. Petersburg on September 13, accompanied by Sebastien Stradal – Landaa’s former Marine Discovery Manager and pioneer of the Flying Turtles Project – to ensure her welfare. She is housed in an 800 square metre (8,600 square feet) tank, where she will play a vital educational role in keeping with the Oceanarium’s ethos.
Commenting on the donation of Elsa to Planeta-Neptun, Annemarie Kramer PhD, Landaa Giraavaru’s Marine Discovery Centre Manager said: “In an ideal world, we would return all of the turtles we care for back to the ocean to continue their life in a natural environment. But for turtles like Elsa, whose chance of survival in the wild is so low, the Flying Turtle Project offers improved long-term wellbeing and extended medical care in a more diverse and natural-feeling environment than we are able to offer at our Rehabilitation Centre. We are very grateful to Sebastien, the Maldivian authorities and everyone else who has worked so hard to make this project possible. We know that Elsa will make a great ambassador for her species, helping to educate the public about the threats faced by sea turtles like her.”
How Are They Now? An Update on the Original Flying Turtles
Of the original four flying turtles, three continue to make good progress in their new homes in Belgium’s Pairi Daiza Zoo:
- Peggy has perfected her ability to dive in her deep tank home among the rays, fish and black tip sharks and is able to stay at the bottom for up to five minutes. Her progress is so positive that it is hoped she will soon be able to return to the Maldives for release back to the ocean.
- Kerry is very happy in her new tank with many small fish (safe for them as she is still unable to dive). She is eating well and spends all day watching her new tank companions.
- Zahiya is still undergoing medical treatment for liver problems but is continuing to consume at least 10 fish a day (a lot given she wasn't a good eater while at Landaa’s MDC). She is currently in the medical facility but will return to join Kerry as soon as she has recovered.
Unfortunately, despite initially doing well, La Petite recently succumbed to an infection and, given her chronic injuries and weakness, passed away earlier this year.
More About the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Program
Established in 2011, the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Program (MSTCP) is one of
In addition to turtle rehabilitation (mainly as a result of entanglement in ghost fishing nets, strikes by boat propellers or harmed by eating plastic), the program is also involved in the photo-identification, satellite tracking, nest protection, and hand rearing of sea turtles.
MSTCP has rehabilitated more than 170 turtles across its centres at Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa since 2011 – with many more released from net entanglement without being admitted for care.
Daily rehabilitation activities include wound care, feeding and rehydration; medicine administration; treatment for buoyancy syndrome; swimming/diving support; and target training to increase activity levels. Rehabilitation is individual for each turtle and can involve months of care.
Both Resorts are also nesting beaching for sea turtles. The most recent nest found at Landaa Giraaavru was on August 20, 2017, while two nests hatched at Kuda Huraa on January 25 and March 18, 2017 respectively, both believed to be laid by the same hawksbill turtle as they were at the same place with two months difference between them, a common pattern shown by this species.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru