A CRITICALLY endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtle who is back in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico is said to be doing "extremely well".

Tally, who spent 20 months in recovery at  Anglesey Sea Zoo after being found on Talacre beach near Prestatyn on Sunday, November 28 2021, was flown from Anglesey to Texas last month. She started her journey across the Atlantic in the early hours of Wednesday, August 30. The mammoth repatriation exercise, which took nearly a year to implement, involved organisations as well as a huge number of volunteers. RAF Valley in Anglesey and RAF Northolt in London assisted in the extraordinary relay.

Rhyl Journal: All of the team collaborators photographed with Tally on the beach before her release.All of the team collaborators photographed with Tally on the beach before her release. (Image: Submitted / Frankie Hobro)

Also involved were 'Turtles Fly Too', the US Fish And Wildlife Service, Houston Zoo and Texas A&M University.

Tally was released off Galveston Beach in the Gulf of Mexico on September 5.

Tally's satellite tracking device showed that last week, following her release, she was exploring the area to the north east of the release site and she is now north of the Galveston channel in an area called the Bolivar Peninsula around 24 km to the north east.

Experts say she appears to be foraging and living her "best turtle life."

It is predicted that she will soon head into Louisiana state waters where the most preferable foraging habitat for critically endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles is found and join others of her species there.

Tally was reported stranded on Talacre beach by a member of the public in November 2021 and transferred to the Anglesey Sea Zoo for specialist intensive care.

Rhyl Journal: An emotional moment as Frankie stands to watch Tally swim away free, through the wavesAn emotional moment as Frankie stands to watch Tally swim away free, through the waves (Image: Submitted / Frankie Hobro)

Mary Kay Skoruppa, sea turtle coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas, said: “The cold waters of the north Atlantic usually result in certain death for this species of subtropical sea turtle in the winter, but thanks to the quick response of a great group of international partners and volunteers, Tally survived and is able to come home.

"Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are at risk of extinction so every individual counts.

"We hope that Tally will grow to maturity and return to nest on a Texas beach in a few years to help ensure her species’ survival into the future.”

Anglesey Sea Zoo Owner and Director Frankie Hobro, who has almost 30 years of experience specialising in conservation of endangered species and their habitats, including hands-on monitoring of critically endangered species of tortoises and terrapins, and managing breeding populations of hawksbill turtles, made the decision that Tally should be taken back out to the Gulf of Mexico for immediate release back into the wild where her chances of survival would be highest and she would offer the most benefit to the survival of her species.

Frankie was approached by Leslie Weinstein from voluntary organisation in the USA called ‘Turtles Fly Too’ who fly Kemps Ridley turtles and other rescued animals across the USA for rescue, rehabilitation and release.

Leslie had heard about the Sea Zoo’s success in saving Tally and offered his help in securing the repatriation of Tally to Texas for release.

Frankie said: “When you are saving an individual that is critically endangered it is about more than just that animal, it is also about the best way that this one individual can most contribute to the remaining global population and safeguard the future of its species.

"I heard of the incredible work being carried out by Dr. Donna Shaver and her team with Kemps Ridleys in Texas and their enthusiasm over Tally’s potential repatriation and contribution to the turtle population there, and made the decision that I wanted her to go back there for immediate release. This was unprecedented but we knew it would give the best possible outcome for Tally and for the future of her species.

"We had a great team behind us and we were determined to fly Tally home. It took 20 months for the plan to come together but the end result made every bit of time, effort and cost absolutely worthwhile”.

Upon arrival in Houston Zoo after a 22-hour journey, accompanied by Frankie, Tally delighted the whole team in being apparently "completely unphased" by her journey.


Tally was housed in the temporary pre-release care of Dr Joe Flannagan and his team at Houston Zoo, who were impressed at Tally’s size and condition. They considered her to be the "healthiest, happiest and most fit" Kemps Ridley that they had ever seen out of rehab.

Leslie Weinstein, President of ‘Turtles Fly Too’, said: "Tally was in the best shape I have ever seen on a Kemps Ridley turtle. Frankie accomplished an amazing recovery of Tally. All involved in the UK should be very proud of being a big part of bringing Tally home”.

Two days after arrival in Texas, Tally passed her pre-release medical tests at Houston Zoo with flying colours, and she was declared fit for immediate release. This was planned straight after the USA bank-holiday Labour Day weekend and went ahead on Tuesday, September 5 at 2pm local time at Galveston Beach.

Tally was transported down from Houston Zoo the night before release and housed in a temporary holding tank at the Gulf Centre for Sea Turtle Research in Galveston. The following morning she was fitted with flipper tags and a satellite tracking device and made a brief appearance to the excitedly waiting crowds of public and media on the beach before being carried by Frankie and released out through the waves off Galveston Beach.

Frankie added: “It was an extremely emotional moment to finally release Tally back into the wild. After 20 months of caring for her, from day one when she was severely dehydrated, comatose and close to death and needing round-the-clock care, to the feisty, healthy and robust 15kg turtle that I released, I have invested more in her than any other animal I have ever rescued.

"Her release was an incredible moment for me, one I had been anticipating and planning for so long.

"It was very emotional in a positive way. I am so proud of that amazing little turtle and how she has thrived after dicing with death - she is definitely a survivor.

"I also felt excited and relieved at the enormous achievement of releasing her after the drawn-out complexities of her repatriation.

"Swim free and happy Tally, and the only time I ever want to see you back on any beach is digging a nest to make baby turtles.”

Anglesey Sea Zoo is fundraising to build the first dedicated turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility in the UK, in order to rescue and to save more cold-stranded turtles. Cold-stunned turtles are becoming more common in the UK due to increasing sea temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns.

The Sea Zoo 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, 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 not on display and cannot be viewed by members of the public, except through pre-booked ‘Turtle Tours’ or by prior arrangement. The sea turtle is currently being carefully rehabilitated in quarantine. 

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.

In the 1980s the species was reduced to just a few hundred nesting females at only one site, Rancho Nuevo in Mexico. Since then, thanks to years of ground-breaking work lead by Dr Donna Shaver, a scientist with the US National Park Service, a second nesting site has been established in Texas at Padre Island National Seashore. Despite these ongoing conservation efforts there are still only around 8,000 breeding females in the world today making every individual extremely precious.