A RARE turtle which washed up almost dead on an Anglesey shore last November is on her way to be released back into the wild.
Named Menai, the endangered Olive Ridley turtle was flown from Manchester to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria on Monday.
She will be housed at a specialist sea turtle rehabilitation centre for several weeks before eventual re-release back into the wild.
Staff at Anglesey Sea Zoo had spent the last seven months caring for and rehabilitating Menai, who had survived against all odds after she was found hypothermic, starving and dehydrated.
She was also suffering from buoyancy difficulties, diagnosed in January through a CT scan at the Royal Veterinary College.
These were a consequence of lung over-expansion – due to her not surfacing to breathe – during her treacherous, 8,000-mile journey through the North Atlantic to the Irish Sea.
Menai's weight has increased from 20kg to a healthy and normal 38kg.
The weight gain has been gradual, while her condition strength and overall health have improved.
Local water temperature when she was found in November was 8C.
Olive Ridley turtles are usually found in tropical waters close to the equator at around 26C – so Menai will have to be released into warm waters.
Pascul Calabuig Miranda, senior vet at the Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestre de Tafira in Gran Canaria, said: “We will be delighted to admit the turtle to our hospital and specialist sea turtle rehabilitation facility here in Gran Canaria.
“We have warm sea water tanks with clean water, sun almost every day, excellent fresh fish, and freshly harvested sea weeds, and she will be very well taken care of by our team in preparation for her release.”
Menai has broken records, her species being the first ever Olive Ridley turtle in Great Britain and Ireland since records began in 1748, and the northernmost individual ever recorded.
Frankie Hobro, director and owner of Anglesey Sea Zoo, said: “Menai is a truly incredible animal! The fact that she even made it to our shores alive is amazing and the fact that she has now fully recovered and is fit for release back into the wild is nothing short of a miracle!
“Although we will be sad to see her move on, we are delighted with her recovery and we know she will be in very safe hands with Pascual and his team in Gran Canaria.”
Once settled in Gran Canaria, Menai will stay there for a few more weeks before being carried by boat for her final release further south west in the Atlantic Ocean near the equator.
She will be satellite tagged so that she can be followed and monitored after her release, and it is hoped that she will make her own way back to her native breeding and feeding grounds, either Gabon in West Africa or French Guiana in South America.