Leatherback Turtle grabs the 6am flight from Cork to Gran Canaria

Leatherback Turtle grabs the 6am flight from Cork to Gran Canaria

Louise Overy, marine biologist at Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, Co Kerry, gives Mara a medical check-up before the loggerhead turtle’s flight back to warmer waters off Gran Canaria. Picture: Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus Ltd

A LOGGERHEAD turtle blown thousands of miles off route departed Cork Airport this morning for Gran Canaria.

Three weeks after being taken into care by Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, the sea turtle was booked on the Ryanair flight to return it to more familiar waters.

The turtle was found in Galway by a local woman walking her dog on Roundstone beach and was brought to a vet in Clifden.

Mara the turtle, who turned out to be between five and six years of age, was cared for in Clifden where the vet gently brought Mara’s body temperature back to normal after being in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean for a prolonged period.

Once able, Mara was transferred to Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle, Co Kerry, for specialised treatment.

“We have previous experience of rehabilitating loggerhead turtles at the aquarium,” marine biologist and animal manager Louise Overy told The Echo.

“Once the turtle’s body temperature is restored, we can introduce it to our large tropical display at 24 degrees celsius.

“Mara came to us on Friday the 13th — ironically it was her lucky day! We usually see turtles a lot sicker than what Mara was when she arrived at Oceanworld, with conditions like pneumonia, but Mara was tough and soon we got her restored to a full bill of health,” said Louise.

Now homeward bound on a flight to the Canary Islands with her animal passport and accompanied by two minders, Mara is sure to be glad of the kindness that has seen her being brought home.

Extreme weather conditions such as Storm Lorenzo can be responsible for transporting turtles like Mara such great distances from their southerly ocean habitat, but thanks to Ryanair it won’t be long until she is back in home waters.

“We reached out to a number of airlines and Ryanair kindly offered to take Mara on a flight from Cork to Gran Canaria. Mara will be accompanied by two members of the Oceanworld team,” said Louise.

Mara will travel in the normal section of the plane alongside the human passengers, she added.

Loggerhead turtles have existed on the planet for 110 million years and are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as endangered.

Loggerhead turtles can have a lifespan of up to 60 or 70 years of age.

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