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Monday, 13 November, 2000, 16:26 GMT
Giant turtle fights for life
Leatherback turtle
The leatherback turtle is an endangered species
Wildlife volunteers in Shetland are trying to save a giant turtle which became tangled in a rope off the island.

The seven-foot-long leatherback turtle, which is thought to be at least 100 years old, is being treated for hypothermia.

Osiris, as it has been called, was found at the weekend with its flippers and neck tangled in a creel rope.

Volunteers at the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary are keeping the turtle - which weighs more than a tonne - moist and warm in the hope that they can save it.


It was quite rough weather and it was very ferocious, so all they could do was tow it in really slowly

Jan Bevington, Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary
But Jan Bevington, at the sanctuary, said she did not know whether their efforts would be enough to keep the animal alive.

She received a phone call on Saturday telling her that the turtle was caught in the ropes.

"It had been there for quite a while," she said.

"They tried to cut it free, but it was quite rough weather and it was very ferocious, so all they could do was tow it in really slowly to the pier at Yell."

The turtle was then taken to the sanctuary.

Endangered species

"Due to the trauma it has been in, because it is about 120 years old and has probably never been out of the water, it shut down completely and it has got hypothermia," explained Ms Bevington.

"What we are doing is trying to bring its temperature back up by spraying tepid salt water over it every two hours. It is covered up and we are keeping it warm."

She said she was "very concerned" about the turtle's condition and did not know whether it would be possible to revive it.

Leatherback turtles have been an endangered species since 1970.

Turtle tracks
The turtle has distinctive tracks
The numbers have continued to decline rapidly since then, with commercial drift fishing, egg poaching and the building of hotels on nesting beaches being blamed for the problem.

The largest population is in the western Atlantic, although there is also a sizeable number in the eastern Pacific.

A study discovered that 35 leatherback turtles were found dead in British waters between 1992 and 1996.

Ms Bevington said there had been 11 sightings of the turtles in Shetland.

"Normally it would be much further south than this," she said.

"These leatherback turtles do come up to around to Scotland and Ireland's shores during the summer and autumn, but it is quite rare to find one up here at this time of year."

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See also:

07 Apr 00 | Scotland
Turtle mania causes welfare headache
30 Nov 99 | Americas
Tourism protects Surinam's turtles
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