Four Seasons Maldives Landaa Giraavaru bids goodbye to Elsa, historic fifth ‘Flying Turtle’

On September 12, Elsa, a female juvenile olive ridley turtle estimated under 20 years of age, will become the fifth”‘flying turtle” to travel from the Maldives by plane to begin a new life overseas.

Donated to St. Petersburg’s Planeta-Neptun, Russia’s first Oceanarium, Elsa follows in the pioneering flipper-steps of her olive ridley cousins – Kerry, Zahiya, La Petite and Peggy, the original “flying turtles” who made Maldivian and European history in August 2016 when they became the first live turtles to be flown overseas from the Maldives for rehabilitation purposes, and the first olive ridleys to be represented in a European facility (Belgium’s Pairi Daiza Zoo).

Like her flying cousins before her, Elsa was a long-term resident of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Sea Turtle Conservation Programme. She initially spent a year being cared for at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, having been found in North Male Atoll floating at the surface entangled in a ghost fishing net; her two front flippers so badly damaged they had to be removed. A year later in August 2014, with her buoyancy syndrome healed, she was transferred to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where she remained for a further three years.

Deemed “non-releasable” (based on international standards), Elsa will make her epic journey to St. Petersburg in September, accompanied by Sebastien Stradal – Landaa’s former Marine Discovery Manager and pioneer of the Flying Turtles Project – to ensure her welfare. She will be housed in an 800 square metre (8,600 square feet) tank, where she will play a vital educational role in keeping with the Oceanarium’s ethos.

Commenting on the donation of Elsa to Planeta-Neptun, Annemarie Kramer, Landaa Giraavaru’s Marine Discovery Centre Manager, said: “In an ideal world, we would return all of the turtles we care for back to the ocean to continue their life in a natural environment. But for turtles like Elsa, whose chance of survival in the wild is so low, the Flying Turtle Project offers improved long-term well-being and extended medical care in a more diverse and natural-feeling environment than we are able to offer at our Rehabilitation Centre. We are very grateful to Sebastien, the Maldivian authorities and everyone else who has worked so hard to make this project possible. We know that Elsa will make a great ambassador for her species, helping to educate the public about the threats faced by sea turtles like her.”

How Are They Now? An Update on the Original Flying Turtles  

Of the original four flying turtles, three continue to make good progress in their new homes in Belgium’s Pairi Daiza Zoo:

  • Peggy has perfected her ability to dive in her deep tank home among the rays, fish and black tip sharks and is able to stay at the bottom for up to five minutes. Her progress is so positive that it is hoped she will soon be able to return to the Maldives for release back to the ocean.
  • Kerry is very happy in her new tank with many small fish (safe for them as she is still unable to dive). She is eating well and spends all day watching her new tank companions.
  • Zahiya is still undergoing medical treatment for liver problems but is continuing to consume at least 10 fish a day (a lot given she wasn’t a good eater while at Landaa’s MDC). She is currently in the medical facility but will return to join Kerry as soon as she has recovered.

Unfortunately, despite initially doing well, La Petite recently succumbed to an infection and, given her chronic injuries and weakness, passed away earlier this year.

Established in 2011, the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme (MSTCP) is one of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives extensive conservation efforts run by a team of more than 12 marine biologists from environmental consultancy Seamarc Pvt.

In addition to turtle rehabilitation (mainly as a result of entanglement in ghost fishing nets, strikes by boat propellers or harmed by eating plastic), the programme is also involved in the photo-identification, satellite tracking, nest protection, and hand rearing of sea turtles.

MSTCP has rehabilitated more than 170 turtles across its centres at Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa since 2011 – with many more released from net entanglement without being admitted for care.

Daily rehabilitation activities include wound care, feeding and rehydration; medicine administration; treatment for buoyancy syndrome; swimming/diving support; and target training to increase activity levels. Rehabilitation is individual for each turtle and can involve months of care.

Both resorts are also nesting beaching for sea turtles. The most recent nest found at Landaa Giraaavru was on August 20, while two nests hatched at Kuda Huraa on January 25 and March 18 respectively, both believed to be laid by the same hawksbill turtle as they were at the same place with two months difference between them, a common pattern shown by this species.

Combining innovation, wellness and conservation, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is a 44-acre, 103-villa wonderland in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — a 30-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport.

Its sister property, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa lies to the south: an enchanting garden island complete with Island Spa sea sanctuary and Tropicsurf coaches and guides. It features 96 thatched beach and water accommodations constructed by local craftsmen using indigenous materials and techniques to reflect a true sense of the Maldives.

The luxury catamaran Four Seasons Explorer connects the two properties via three, four and seven-night cruises, plus private leisure, surf and manta ray charters.

The latest addition to the Maldives collection, Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah, Baa Atoll opened in December as the group’s first exclusive-use private island: off limits to everyone else, limitless to the guests.

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