Six-inch loggerhead turtle from Florida discovered alive in Mayo

Reptile in cold shock when discovered on Belmullet beach being nursed back to health in Dingle aquarium

A 6in loggerhead turtle has been described as “an absolute miracle” after being washed up on an Irish beach thousands of miles from home.

The reptile, probably less than a year old, was found beached upside down on the Belmullet Peninsula, Co Mayo, by a family out for a walk.

Kevin Flannery, director of Dingle Oceanworld, who is looking after the loggerhead, said it was very rare for such a small turtle to be found alive after crossing the Atlantic from Florida.

‘Upside down’

“Usually, birds would have picked them off or a shark or something would have eaten it or the cold shock from the water would have killed it,” he said. “They would also die if washed up on rocks upside down. Being so tiny it’s an absolute miracle it survived.”


Mr Flannery said the turtle — which he has named Cróga, the Irish for brave — was the size of a dinner plate and was spotted by local man Cormac de Rosta out walking with his two daughters the day before Valentine’s.

It was taken to Achill Aquarium and Mr Flannery drove the 12-hour return journey from Dingle to pick it up.

“The poor devil would have been in cold shock and usually they don’t survive. They are marine reptiles and need warm water of 20 degrees-plus.

“They hatch out in the Gulf of Mexico and spend a few years in the Sargasso Sea in the weed off Miami. When they are older and strong enough they drift over to the Canaries. But when they get these great storms off the US from the Caribbean they get washed too far north and they go into cold shock and get carried by the wind and sea. A lot get washed ashore in the Carolinas and up the east coast of the [United] States and a lot of the aquariums there take them in and they replenish them and rehydrate them and get them back.

“But sometimes we get a few washed ashore on the west coast of Ireland. If we can get them in time we get the temperature back up extremely slowly and we get a saline solution into them and get them back feeding.”

He said the female loggerhead was doing well and had already put on nine ounces (255g) and would be in the care of the aquarium for the next couple of months.

Canary Islands

Eventually, it will be released into the warmer waters of the Canaries.

“The Irish Naval Service heading to the Mediterranean on humanitarian missions sometimes carry them down for us and release them into the water where the temperature is ideal.

“This is where they spend their teenage years before drifting back to the Caribbean on the Caribbean current. When they are about 20 or 30 years of age the female goes ashore and lays her hatchlings.”

Mr Flannery said loggerheads live largely on jellyfish but a huge problem these days was the amount of plastic in the seas.

“They can’t tell the difference between jellyfish and plastic and we are finding huge levels of plastic they have ingested. It’s a major problem for turtles.”