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Maldives biped turtle Heidi moves to UK

Heidi the olive ridley turtle (NMA)
Heidi the olive ridley turtle (NMA)
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An injured olive ridley turtle rescued from a ghost-net in the Maldives four years ago has found a new home at the UK’s National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth.

Originally identified as a female and named Heidi, the olive ridley is in fact a 29kg male turtle. He was found by a team from COMO Cocoa Island at the Dropped Pin site in South Male Atoll in April 2018, entangled in the abandoned fishing-net with deep wounds to both front flippers. 

Heidi’s front left limb later had to be amputated, and the other one no longer functions after sustaining extensive muscle, nerve and blood vessel damage.

Following the surgery Heidi spent the next four years at Maldives rehabilitation charity the Olive Ridley Project. Its veterinarian-led turtle rescue centre on diving island Coco Palm Dhunu Kolhu in Baa Atoll was formed in partnership with Coco Collection resorts.

The well-groomed turtle (NMA)
The well-groomed turtle (NMA)

Heidi was flown to the UK in November and has spent several weeks in an acclimation tank at the aquarium but is being introduced to its Great Barrier Reef tank today (20 December).

“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,” commented Olive Ridley Project lead veterinarian Dr Claire Petros. “He has such an incredible personality and we thought he would make a fantastic ambassador, raising the awareness of the threat that turtles face from ghost-nets around the world.”

Heidi in the sea – with two functioning flippers he is still a competent swimmer (NMA)
Heidi in the sea – with his two functioning flippers he remains a competent swimmer (NMA)
Heidi heading to the UK (NMA)
Heidi heading to the UK (NMA)

Despite his injuries, Heidi is said to be a competent swimmer and diver using his back flippers, often putting on a display of turning upside-down and spinning to catch pieces of fish.

“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,” said Marcus Williams, curator of the Ocean Conservation Trust charity, which runs the aquarium. 

“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.”

The National Marine Aquarium is open during the holidays from 10-5 (3pm on Christmas Eve) except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Also on Divernet: Secrets Of The National Marine Aquarium, Divers Shift Seagrass Seeds And Nets

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3 Comments
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Jim
Jim
1 month ago

Plymouth is in Devon

Glynn
Glynn
1 month ago

I was there in January. It’s a wonderful project and people can volunteer, which I might consider.

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