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Endangered sea turtle headed to Houston after being swept from the Gulf all the way across the Atlantic to Wales

After Tally was found stranded and near death on the distant shores of Talacre in Northern Wales, the Royal Air Force stepped up to help bring her home to Texas.
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Tally, a Kemp's ridley sea turtle, was swept from the Gulf of Mexico across the Atlantic to Wales in the UK.

HOUSTON — When Tally the sea turtle is released back into the Gulf of Mexico next month, she will have a whale of a tale to share with other sea turtles. 

Tally is a Kemp's ridley, the smallest and one of the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world. 

They're native Texans but occasionally juvenile Kemp’s ridleys get swept up in the powerful Gulf Stream and carried all the way across the Atlantic. That's what happened to Tally. 

In November 2021, a dog walker spotted the sea turtle on the shore of Talacre in Northern Wales. The turtle was near death but the Anglesey Sea Zoo provided months of intensive care until she was healthy again.  

It was time to get Tally home to Texas so an international team went to work to figure out how to make it happen.

First, they had to wade through some red tape on both sides of the pond designed to protect endangered species, including Kemp's ridleys.

The next hurdle was figuring out how to transport the little turtle back to the States. To help with the logistics of the flight, the team reached out to Turtles Fly Too, who partner with the Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Ken Andrews of Turtles Fly Too described this as their “furthest and most complex mission ever flown.”

The Royal Air Force (RAF) stepped up to help with logistical hurdles and to offer their facilities. Acting RAF Sergeant Beth Roberts said it was a privilege to work on this “worthwhile project.”  

No doubt, Tally will get first-class treatment when she flies home on British Airways on a commercial flight donated by Turtles Fly Too.

Once Tally arrives in the U.S., she will be taken to the Houston Zoo, where veterinarians will ensure she's healthy enough to be released into the wild. 

Once she's cleared for takeoff, Tally will head to the Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research where they'll attach a tracking device to monitor her movements. Then she'll be released back into the Gulf where her epic journey began. 

“The cold waters of the Northeast Atlantic usually result in certain death for this species of subtropical sea turtle in the winter,” said Mary Kay Skoruppa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Texas Sea Turtle Coordinator. “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.”

Tally has already proven she's a tough little turtle, so we're hopeful she will continue to thrive in the wild. 

If you spot a sea turtle on a beach or shoreline, quickly report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5 (1-866-887-8535).

RELATED: Kemp's ridley sea turtle spotted nesting at Galveston Island State Park for second year in a row

Partners involved in the effort to rescue, rehabilitate and return Tally to the U.S. include British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Anglesey Sea Zoo, the Royal Air Force, Turtles Fly Too, Houston Zoo, Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research, Padre Island National Seashore, the Texas Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.

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