Belfast Telegraph

Columba the Caribbean turtle who took wrong turn to end up in Donegal loses fight for life at Exploris

By Claire Williamson

A young loggerhead turtle fighting for its life after being swept hundreds of miles off course and fetching up on the Donegal coast has died.

Columba was discovered by a member of the public on Saturday in Donegal where the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group kept him overnight before bringing him to Exploris Aquarium to continue his recovery.

The turtle who was aged 12 and too young to have its sex determined - was found on the beach at Glencolmcille by Grainne Rua as she walked her dog.

The team who rescued Columba in Donegal gave the turtle its name.

Loggerhead turtles are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, but can't survive winter sea temperatures here.

Tania Singleton at Exploris believes Columba may have been travelling along the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean when it was swept off course and into waters that are far too cold for survival.

The turtle was discovered in water of only eight degrees and loggerhead turtles need to remain at a temperature of at least 15 degrees to survive.

The team at Exploris gradually warmed the turtle from its hypothermic state with staff taking turns to remain in the tank with Columba who at this stage didn't have the energy to keep his head above water - and his temperature came back up to 16 degrees.

Columba had picked up slightly with occasional spells of activity followed by long period of lethargy and sleep.

The loggerhead turtle was monitored carefully through the night and was given an antibiotic injection by a vet - but despite the efforts he passed away during the night.

Aquarist at Exploris, Tania Singleton explained how Columba may have ended up stranded in Donegal.

She said: "Logger head turtles are found in the Atlantic and usually follow the Golf Stream.  It is possible that Columba became unwell and drifted or was washed off course by a storm. 

"A post-mortem will reveal whether Columba did have an underlying condition which may have caused his death.  The team are incredibly saddened to lose this magnificent turtle.”

Columba is the first loggerhead turtle to have been rescued by Exploris in 20 years, but there was a spate of nine turtle rescues between 1990 and 1995, which provided vital experience.

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