A Turtle That Defies Restrictions Of Movement

While we are sitting safely locked up in La Comunidad Valenciana, a loggerhead turtle named Colomera defies the restrictions by making its way back to Valencia coast.

It is completely natural to want to return to Valencia after your first visit. Such is the fate of Colomera, a loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta) that began its journey back to our Comunidad after spending the winter in Greece. The summer is approaching, and where better to be than in Valencia?

After being discovered stranded, this 100kg female turtle was released into the sea in Oropesa del Mar (Castellon) last June. It was the second time the same turtle has been sent back to the water.

She was first found in December 2015 in Benicarlo after becoming entangled in a net and floating on the surface with symptoms of an air embolism. She returned to the sea in April 2016 after a five-month recovery period. The turtle was christened Colomera at the time, after the 16th century Colomera Tower, built just a few metres from where she was released.Then at the start of 2019, she was back in the hospital. This time, a fishing hook had became lodged in her oesophagus, and it took her nearly six months to recover. 

Colomera was a patient at the ARCA del Mar (Sea Animals Recovery and Conservation Area) both times, a “turtle hospital” that is part of the Oceanogràfic Centre in Valencia. The Oceanogràfic, in collaboration with the Department of Infrastructure, Territory, and Environment and the University of Valencia, form the Stranding Network (Red de Varamientos), a one-of-a-kind organisation tasked with collecting cetaceans and turtles found stranded on Valencia beaches.

It is a noble initiative that began in 2007, and since then, more than 500 turtles have been cured and returned to the sea. Many of them end up in hospitals as a result of shell fractures or limb injuries sustained when colliding with ships. However, the majority of them are injured when they become entangled in the nets of fishing boats. They get “diver’s disease” when they come to the surface too soon, which causes bubbles in their blood and can lead to death. In that case, they are kept in the hyperbaric chambers at Oceanogràfic until they recover and are able to return to the sea.

Colomera was cured and returned to the sea on 25 June last year, on the beach of Bellver de Oropesa. Her shell was outfitted with a satellite transmitter, allowing scientists to learn more about the species’ routes and habits. The turtle quickly embarked on its long journey. It passed the Columbretes Islands, then continued to the Balearic Islands, toured the coast of Palma de Mallorca for a while, and then headed to the Sicilian Channel, which connects Tunisia and Sicily.

Her journey continued to the Gulf of Ciparisia in Greece, on the western coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, near the Ionian Sea, where she stayed for six months. This area is well-known as a loggerhead turtle nesting area. The satellite tracker revealed that Colomera had travelled more 3,000 kilometres in about six weeks.

However, the storey does not end here. As soon as winter ended, the turtle embarked on the same journey, but this time in the opposite direction. She has already cruised the Sicilian coast, passed through the channel, and is now circling Malta. Although we cannot be certain, it is likely that she will return to Valencia.

Why Valencia? Apparently, not for the sights or the paella. It is because recent climate changes have made the Spanish coast, particularly the one in the Comunidad Valenciana, more appealing to loggerhead turtles, who are increasingly visiting our shores. 

Tragically, we don’t just have doctors waiting for them, but also a massive amount of plastic and floating debris, making this journey extremely dangerous.

© A Turtle That Defies Restrictions Of Movement TheValencian

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