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Rescued turtle arrives at National Marine Aquarium

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Rescued from a ghost net in the Maldives, Heidi the Olive Ridley turtle, with only one front flipper, is settling into his new home at the UK’s National Marine Aquarium

The UK’s largest aquarium, the National Marine Aquarium, has welcomed a new tank-mate – Heidi, a 29kg male turtle rescued from South Malé Atoll in the Maldives.

Heidi (the turtle was named when it was thought to be female, and the name stuck) was found entangled in a ghost net, a fishing net that has been abandoned, lost or discarded into the ocean. He had deep wounds to both front flippers, and unfortunately the front left flipper had to be amputated. Heidi’s remaining front flipper suffered extensive muscle, nerve and blood vessel damage so is also not functional, meaning he would not have survived in the wild. 

National Marine Aquarium
Heidi went through a long-term rehabilitation

The 65cm turtle underwent surgery and spent four years at the Olive Ridley Project – a charity which carries out vital work to rehabilitate turtles caught up in ghost nets. Thanks to their partnership with Coco Collection, the Olive Ridley Project created the first veterinarian-led turtle rescue centre in the Maldives, located on Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, where Heidi resided before being transported by IAG Cargo, the cargo division of International Airlines Group,  to his new home in Plymouth. Landing in the UK at the start of November, Heidi has spent a few weeks in an acclimation tank at the National Marine Aquarium in order to properly settle into his new abode before he is moved to the Aquarium’s stunning Great Barrier Reef Tank.

Marcus Williams, Curator at the Ocean Conservation Trust, said: “We are delighted to be able to give Heidi a home in our Great Barrier Reef Tank. As well as allowing our audiences to engage with this wonderful animal, we will be able to educate on the dangers of ghost nets and the importance of conservation efforts around the world. It was an amazing effort to get Heidi safely over to Plymouth, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of some dedicated organisations, including Olive Ridley Project, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, IAG Cargo, JCS Livestock, Trans Maldivian Airways and British Airways.”

National Marine Aquarium
Heidi is quite capable of swimming with just his back flippers

Dr Claire Petros, Lead Veterinarian from the Olive Ridley Project commented, “We’re excited that our long-term patient, Heidi, has arrived at his forever home at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth in England. Sadly, Heidi would not have been able to return to the wild as he has no use of his remaining front flipper and as such wouldn’t have survived back in the ocean. He has such an incredible personality and we thought he would make a fantastic ambassador, raising the awareness of the threat that turtle’s face from ghost nets around the world.”

Despite his injuries, Heidi is a competent swimmer and diver using his back flippers. Quite the acrobat, he often puts on a display of turning upside down and spinning around to catch pieces of fish, so will be a fascinating addition to the wonderful array of animals that can already be found at the National Marine Aquarium.

National Marine Aquarium
Heidi was trapped in a ghost net, resulting in the loss of one flipper, and the other being rendered unusable

Valerie Hadley, Specialised Product Manager at IAG Cargo, said: “We are delighted to have partnered with the Ocean Conservation Trust to transport Heidi the turtle safely from the Maldives to London-Heathrow. At IAG Cargo, we’re used to handling precious cargo and have been moving live animals for many years. Each scenario is handled with care and we take the animals' unique needs into consideration – ensuring that they arrive safe and sound.”

Now in the Great Barrier Reef tank guests to the aquarium can see Heidi putting on his gymnastic display and making friends with the tank’s current residents.

Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Scuba Diver's Editorial Director Mark Evans has been in the diving industry for nearly 25 years, and has been diving since he was just 12 years old. nearly 40-odd years later and he is still addicted to the underwater world.
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