Turtle to return to Great Yarmouth’s Sea Life Centre after 17 years


Antiopi - Credit: Archant

A touching reunion is in store at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre when a brain-damaged loggerhead sea turtle returns after a 17 year absence.

Antiopi's head wound. Picture: Supplied

Antiopi's head wound. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

Marine Biologist Darren Gook was doing work experience at the Centre back in 1998 when the female turtle Antiopi first arrived from a rescue centre in Greece.

Now she's coming back for a two-month break while her permanent home gets a facelift, and Darren can't wait to welcome her.

'She was found on the Greek coast with a gaping head wound, probably caused by a collision with a boat propeller,' he said.

'Her wound eventually healed, but she had suffered brain damage and it was feared she would not survive back in the wild.'

Named from the Greek word for 'Princess,' Antiopi was offered a permanent home by the Sea Life network.

She was flown from Athens and after a brief stop-over in Weymouth, Dorset headed to Great Yarmouth where she lived for around nine months while permanent arrangements were made for her at the Scarborough Sea Life Centre.

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'I was 15-years-old, mad keen on marine life and already having the time of my life working with the creatures at the Great Yarmouth centre,' said Darren, who was on work experience from Gorleston's Lynn Grove High School.

'To then have this rare and amazing sea turtle arrive was incredibly exciting,' he added. 'Antiopi had been in a very small tank in Athens so had not been able to exercise. I spent weeks working with her to build up her strength and stamina before she moved to Scarborough.'

Darren remembers patiently coaxing Antiopi into swimming around the ocean tank by trailing a tasty squid on the end of a line, and eventually releasing it in the centre of the tank so that she had to dive to the bottom to retrieve it.

This was just one of many rewarding experiences that encouraged Darren to join Sea Life full time a couple of years later, but he has never seen Antiopi again since she moved to Scarborough.

'Colleagues in Scarborough tell me she seems to enjoy life and all the attention she gets in spite of her brain damage, and that she's been a fantastic ambassador for the turtle conservation efforts,' he said.

'I can't wait to see her again and see how much she's grown, and how she gets on with our resident green turtle Noah.'

Thought to be well over 40 years of age, Antiopi is the only loggerhead sea turtle at any UK Sea Life attraction.

It was following her arrival that the Sea Life network launched an appeal which helped fund a new Sea Turtle Rescue and Information Centre on the Greek island Zakynthos, where hundreds of loggerhead turtles lay their eggs every summer.