A giant leather-backed turtle, washed ashore at Peniche, was dragged alive from the sand and taken to Zoomarine in Albufeira for treatment, but died during the journey down to the Algarve. The turtle, weighing 400 kilos, was a rare species protected by law and usually found only in tropical waters. It feeds on crustaceans, fish and species of algae and seldom makes its way anywhere near Portuguese shores – when it does, it is usually as a consequence of warm currents. A local resident discovered the giant visitor at around 7.30am, but it was later revealed that a scuba diver had been the first to spot it the night before, swimming perilously close to some rocks. During the night, and presumably aided by the tide, the turtle came near the coast, eventually ending up on the beach.
The size of the animal aroused the curiosity of hundreds of locals, who headed down to catch a glimpse of the unusual visitor, while officials from Peniche Câmara called the local Civil Protection Co-ordinator to the scene. The operation to rescue the turtle lasted several hours and involved workers from the Berlenga Nature Reserve, the Institute of Nature Conservation and the Maritime Police. Meanwhile, locals poured water over the turtle’s skin to prevent it drying out. Eventually, a bulldozer from Peniche Câmara was brought in to hoist the animal into a vehicle before it was dispatched to Zoomarine in Albufeira. Sadly, the turtle died of its injuries while travelling through the Alentejo.
Élio Vicente, a marine biologist from Zoomarine, said: “The turtle might have succumbed to an infection and then sustained serious injuries from successive collisions with the rocks. But an autopsy will have to be carried out to establish the real cause of death.”