A flipper-style round of applause to our conservation teams

Elsa, the 5th ‘flying turtle’

Get ready for a heart-warming tale with a happy ending…  Five years ago, Elsa, a female juvenile Olive Ridley turtle, was found in North Male Atoll floating at the surface entangled in a ghost fishing net.  Her two front flippers were so badly damaged that they had to be removed.

She spent a year being cared for at Kuda Huraa and with her buoyancy syndrome healed, she was transferred to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Landaa Giraavaru, where she remained for a further three years.

The turtle rehabilitation centre at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Elsa’s injuries and lack of two front flippers, however, meant she was deemed ‘non-releasable’ (by international standards), given her low chance of survival in the wild.

Destiny, however, had other plans (aided in no small part by our incredible team of marine biologists, past and present). And this September, Elsa became the fifth Olive Ridley to benefit from our ‘Flying Turtles’ programme – an incredible project two years in the making and planning – when she was donated to St Petersburg’s Planeta-Neptun, Russia’s first Oceanarium.  Here, she’ll play a vital educational role as an ambassador for her species helping to educate the public about the threats faced by sea turtles like her.

After a slight hitch on her original flight day, Elsa’s epic journey commenced just 24 hours behind schedule on 13 September 2017. After 17 hours of ‘towel burritos’ and a vaselined shell, she made it to Russia, accompanied by Landaa’s former Marine Discovery Centre Manager and founder of the Flying Turtles Project, Sebastien Stradel.

Elsa soon settled into her new surroundings, getting comfortable in her temporary quarantine pool. It won’t be long until she is allowed to swim ‘free’ in her 800m³ tank, returning to life with all the animals on the tank ‘reef’.  For now though, Elsa is happy being the centre of attention, her favourite place to be!

Elsa follows in the 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.

Our thanks go to both of the Marine Savers teams at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Marine Discovery Centres, old and new, the Maldivian authorities, as well as Emirates Group, Planeta-Neptun in St Petersburg, Pairi Daiza, FlightWatch and Stephanie Jessen, curator at AquaZoo Netherlands, who worked so hard to make this project possible.

To get involved in life-changing conservation projects like ‘Flying Turtles’, contact our Marine Discovery Centre’s team ‘Marine Savers’ as follows:
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa Marine Discovery Centre Manager on mdc.manager@fourseasons.com (Turtle hatchlings and turtle rearing)
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru Marine Discovery Centre Manager on mdcmanager.mlg@fourseasons.com (Turtle rehabilitation & turtle nest protection)

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