Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Tally Receives Clean Bill of Health From Houston Zoo Experts
Health & Science

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Tally Receives Clean Bill of Health From Houston Zoo Experts

September 01 2023

In an extraordinary tale of resilience, Tally, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, is nearing the end of her years long journey home to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. On Thursday, the Houston Zoo animal health team of veterinarians gave the international superstar a medical check-up to ensure she is healthy after her transatlantic adventure before she is cleared to be released back in the wild.

Discovered washed up on the shores of Wales, U.K. in 2021, Tally’s fate took a dramatic turn when she was found by a group of dedicated individuals. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, one of the rarest and most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, found herself far from her natural habitat, an unusual sighting in the United Kingdom. A group of animal experts from the Anglesey Sea Zoo quickly intervened, and Tally’s journey towards recovery began.

Tally a few weeks after being found stranded on a beach in Wales, rehabilitating at Anglesey Sea Zoo. (Source: Houston Zoo)
The circumstances of Tally’s stranding were attributed to a combination of factors, including a change in weather conditions and the unfortunate timing of her location. With the potential risk of pneumonia due to her extended time in cold waters, the team at Anglesey Sea Zoo embarked on a mission to nurse her back to health.

It took an entire year to secure the necessary clearances for her journey back to her native habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Spearheaded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Tally received the proper CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit. Turtles Fly Too generously stepped in to cover the cost of her transport, ensuring she would have the opportunity to return home. Tally was declared fit for travel, marking the next phase of her extraordinary journey, and flew as a cargo passenger on a commercial airline from Heathrow to Houston. More information about her recovery and travel can be found on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s website.

Upon her arrival in Texas, Tally was immediately transported to Houston Zoo, where a team of experts conducted a thorough examination. Much to everyone’s relief, Tally was found to be strong, vigorous, and healthy, defying the odds of her 22-hour long transit. The routine exam by the Zoo’s veterinary care team revealed no signs of organ dysfunction, and radiographs confirmed no indications of pneumonia. The examination of her limb joints showed no swelling, further confirming her remarkable health. She is estimated to be 6-7 years old, she weighs an impressive 14.6 kilograms (32 pounds).

Tally’s bloodwork results are still pending and are expected to arrive within the next day. These tests will provide crucial insights into her overall health and help guide her ongoing care.

Currently, she will spend a few days in a deep-water tank at Houston Zoo to regain her muscle strength. Soon, researchers from Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research will attach a tracking device to monitor her movements after release.

If all goes well, the international team of partners along with the Padre Island National Seashore Turtle Stranding team, are planning to meet in Galveston to celebrate Tally’s release back into the wild in early September.

Tally the sea turtle swimming. (Source: Houston Zoo)

Tally’s story highlights the incredible dedication of the multiple agencies and non-profit organizations like U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Turtles Fly Too, Anglesey Sea Zoo, Houston Zoo, and Texas A&M University-Galveston who have worked tirelessly to ensure her survival and successful return to her natural habitat.

Tally’s journey is a testament to the power of collaboration and compassion in wildlife conservation, and her return to the Gulf of Mexico will mark a significant milestone for the preservation of these magnificent creatures.

Anytime a sea turtle is found on a beach or shoreline, members of the public are urged quickly report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5 (1-866-887-8535).

Source: Houston Zoo

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