2 November 2012
Two sea turtles kept at an aquarium in Italy have been the subject of many Travellers’ Animal Alert complaints that Born Free has received for the last 10 years. After continually raising our concerns with the Italian authorities to take action to help these turtles, there is at last some news to report.
It turns out that these huge loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) have been held at Alghero Aquarium in Sardinia for many years - the male for about 15 years and the female for an astounding 34 years. Their tanks so pitifully small, they were only able to swim a couple of metres from one end to the other.
Born Free received word from an Italian sea turtle vet that the Alghero turtles were seized by local authorities in 2011 and transferred to Centro di Recupero del Sinis (CReS), a recovery centre for sea turtles and marine mammals in Sardinia. CReS reports that both turtles were underweight and suffering from calcium deficiency due to the lack of natural sunlight, they were also covered in algae and parasites, and had numerous injuries to their shells.
During an 8 month period, the turtles were treated for these conditions, and sea turtles being quite strong and resilient animals, recovered well and their weight increased significantly. However, there has been a set-back regarding the female turtle. Following an appeal by the aquarium owner, in March 2012, the courts ruled that the female was the legal property of the aquarium, as she had been acquired before Italy had joined the CITES agreement. She is sadly now back in her small tank at Alghero Aquarium.
CReS is continuing their rehabilitation of the male turtle and if all goes to plan, they aim to release him back into the sea from which he was taken all those years ago. As with the rehab process of dolphins Misha and Tom in Turkey, this can be a lengthy process; however, hopefully he will soon be back in the wild. Whilst we will be following the story of the male turtle’s rehab, we are naturally very concerned about the female turtle returned to Alghero Aquarium and will be taking the issue further with the Italian authorities.
Scientific research has shown that wild caught sea turtles which have spent lengthy times in captivity can be successfully reintroduced back into the wild. Sea turtles possess an innate ability to navigate over huge distances in the wild, following the earth’s magnetic fields and migration routes.
Loggerhead turtles are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, affected by pollution, loss of nesting sites, and injuries caused by fishing nets and boats. In the wild loggerhead turtles feed mainly on the bottom of the ocean, eating invertebrates, small crustaceans, jelly fish and sea weed. They are known to live up to 50 years or more in the wild.
Born Free Foundation, in association with the European coalition ENDCAP, has undertaken the most extensive investigation into zoo regulation in Europe called The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011. In Italy, our findings indicated that neither National zoo law nor the EC Zoo Directive is being effectively implemented or enforced, with significant numbers of zoos remaining unlicensed and unregulated, allowing zoos such as Alghero Aquarium to continue operating.
Born Free is working directly with the Italian Government to try and address these problems. You can assist us by writing a polite letter of concern about the remaining turtle at Alghero Aquarium to the Italian Minister of Environment and Italian Embassy.
Italian Minister of Environment details below:
Mr Corrado Clini
Ministero dell'Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare
Via Cristoforo Colombo, n.44
00147 – Roma
For those of you in the UK, the contact details for the Ambassador in London are provided below.
His Excellency Mr Alain Giorgio Maria Economides
Embassy of Italy
14 Three Kings’ Yard
Those outside of the UK can find the relevant contact details for their Italian Embassy here.
Information about Born Free’s EU zoo work and further information about how you can help here