Thursday, 7 May 2009

BBC 'Shells Out' for a Turtle

The slightly bizarre (and somewhat disturbing) story of 'Willy', a small but rare, female Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) featured in 'instalments' on the BBC 'The One Show' (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1497707.html). The turtle was originally washed up at Woolacombe (not Woolabombe) Bay, Devon (presumably after being dragged across the Atlantic by the Gulf stream from its native North-west Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean habitats (http://www.conservation.org/learn/species/profiles/turtles/sea_turtles/Pages/kemps_ridley.aspx). The initially comatose animal was then maintained and 'rehabilitated' for a period in Weymouth Sealife Park before being moved by air to Topsail Island in North Carolina (where Karen Beasley runs the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center) by Mike Dilger and a BBC film crew. The intention was obviously to have a 'happy' conservation story with a bit of drama ("is it dead yet?") but a) the turtle was obviously distressed at several points in the process and b) the same money might have been more effectively spent on the Mexico and Texas nesting locations of the species. It seemed a bit much to get the turtle to crawl on the North Carolina sand many days before release so that footage could be obtained before the film crew had to return home. I really doubt that this kind of item sends out the right messages.

2 comments:

Sue said...

I too was a bit perturbed by Karen's handling, both of the situation and the turtle.They did however say that the beach episode was an acclimatisation exercise and not just a PR stunt. As to money well spent? Well funds may well have been better apportioned closer to source but this has raised awareness in a country not normally associated with turtles.

Paul Brain said...

Agreed in general but labelling something as 'acclimatisation' doesn't account for the crowds of folk (including camera crew) surrounding the beast. Turtle awareness (following the plastic bag debate) seems surprisingly good in UK.

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