A MAMMOTH operation to fly Tally the tropical sea turtle from Anglesey to Texas ready for release has been hailed a "monumental achievement". 

Tally was found stranded by a member of the public on a beach near Prestatyn on Sunday, November 28 2021. The critically endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtle was found in a state of cold shock.

She spent about 20 months recovering at Anglesey Sea Zoo where she received specialist intensive care.

Rhyl Journal: Tally when initially found.Tally when initially found. (Image: Submitted by Frankie Hobro)

In the early hours of Wednesday, August 30, a mammoth pan-Atlantic repatriation exercise, to fly Tally for re-release in the Gulf of Mexico, was conducted. The operation had taken nearly a year to implement and was only possible due to the generosity and dedication of organisations involved, including a huge number of volunteers.

RAF Valley in Anglesey and RAF Northolt in London assisted in the extraordinary relay.

Rhyl Journal: Early recoveryEarly recovery (Image: Submitted by Frankie Hobro)

RAF Valley on Anglesey was described as "instrumental" in the repatriation process as well as volunteer pilots Chris Sharp and Tom Baker, British Airways staff on the flight to Houston, and other organisations based in the USA including 'Turtles Fly Too', the US Fish And Wildlife Service, Houston Zoo, and Texas A&M University.

Ken Andrews, of 'Turtles Fly Too', said: “We have literally hundreds of people working on this mission on both sides of the ocean that will need to be aligned.

Rhyl Journal: Tally takes a swim.Tally takes a swim. (Image: Submitted by Frankie Hobro)

"What a wonderful outpouring of love and support for Tally – perhaps the luckiest sea turtle on the planet."

The turtle was dubbed 'Tally' in honour of her link to Talacre.

Tally is a Kemps Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), the world’s rarest species of turtle and critically endangered, protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulations. Just two known breeding sites remain for the species globally, both in the western Gulf of Mexico, where there are only around 8,000 breeding females in the world.

Rhyl Journal:  Tally fit and well ready for her repatriation to the Gulf of Mexico. Tally fit and well ready for her repatriation to the Gulf of Mexico. (Image: Submitted by Frankie Hobro)

Tally is believed to be female which makes her repatriation and release even more important for the future of her species, which is at risk of extinction.

Frankie Hobro, Director and Owner of the Anglesey Sea Zoo, said: “Wednesday (August 30) was an extremely exciting day for Tally and for our team and I cannot express how grateful we are for the support we have had from so many people to fly her home. When you look at how sick Tally was when we brought her in for rehabilitation, in an unresponsive and comatosed state, we are incredibly proud of this little turtle and how much bigger and stronger she has grown in our care.

"She coped extremely well will the 22 ours of constant travelling it took us to reach Texas and she appears unscathed and excited to be home.

"I am very much looking forward to releasing Tally in just a few days, straight back into the sea in the Gulf of Mexico where she belongs.”

Rhyl Journal: RAF Valley provided a police escort from the Sea Zoo to RAF Valley. RAF Valley provided a police escort from the Sea Zoo to RAF Valley. (Image: Image submitted by RAF Valley)

RAF Valley provided a police escort from Sea Zoo to RAF Valley in the early hours of August 30 before a team of volunteer pilots transfered Tally from RAF Valley to RAF Northolt for onward transit to Heathrow.


Upon arrival at the airport in Houston, Tally was assessed and found to be well and unscathed. She was quickly transferred to the turtle rehabilitation facility at nearby Houston Zoo where a pre-release tank was waiting for her, to enable her to build up her swimming muscles for the next few days until she is released.

Rhyl Journal: Tally boards the plane at RAF Valley on Anglesey.Tally boards the plane at RAF Valley on Anglesey. (Image: Image submitted by RAF Valley)

Tally will undergo health assessment and blood tests to confirm her fitness for release.

She will be fitted with a satellite tag before being released straight back into the sea.

Wing Commander Chris Pote, Officer Commanding RAF Valley’s Operations Wing - who masterminded the RAF’s part in the operation, said: “Everything ran like clockwork. We were all delighted to have the chance to play a small part in the repatriation of this most critically endangered animal. What it has revealed to us is just how many of our people serving at RAF Valley care passionately about the environment and conservation issues. 

"Everybody who turned up at the somewhat ungodly hours of one am in the morning until 3am when Tally departed  the airfield, was there because they wanted to help. 

"All were volunteers and all of us will be keen to monitor Tally’s progress - as she is released into the warm waters of the Mexican Gulf.”

Anglesey Sea Zoo runs a voluntary Marine Animal Rescue facility to attend any stranded or injured marine animals. Members of the public are asked to remain vigilant and quickly report any turtle they encounter on a beach.

Stranded turtles often appear dead when they are in fact in a state of torpor, or physiological "shut down" due to the low temperatures.

Rhyl Journal: Tally gets ready to for take offTally gets ready to for take off (Image: Image submitted by RAF Valley)

If this is the case, they may be revived and can make a full recovery under the right conditions if they are rescued quickly.

The Sea Zoo is fundraising to build the first dedicated turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility in the UK. Click here for more and to donate.

Cold-stunned turtles are becoming more common in the UK due to increasing sea temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns and the need for a purpose-built facility is becoming more urgent every year.

Rhyl Journal: Frankie Holbro the Director of Anglesey Sea Zoo and Acting Sergeant Beth Roberts from RAF Valley.Frankie Holbro the Director of Anglesey Sea Zoo and Acting Sergeant Beth Roberts from RAF Valley. (Image: Image submitted by RAF Valley)

The Sea Zoo currently still has Tonni in its care - the juvenile loggerhead turtle who washed up on the shore of the Menai Strait in January this year.

Tonni has now recovered well and is at the pre-release stage of care, and is expected to be flown south in the Atlantic for release back into the wild in a few months time.

Tonni is currently not on display and cannot be viewed by members of the public. The sea turtle is currently being carefully rehabilitated in quarantine.