Brighton Sea Life Centre’s elderly green turtle Gulliver has benefited from a unique collaboration between Sea Life and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).
The project’s main aim was to try and improve the lives of turtles with buoyancy problems, having suffered severe damage to their shells and spines in collisions with boats.
Brighton Sea Life’s sister attraction in Weymouth houses three such casualties from collisions in Florida Keys.
Final year veterinary student Jen Oraze hopes her analysis of CT scans of the three Weymouth turtles will reveal the full extent of their disabilities and enable staff to modify and improve their care accordingly.
Gulliver, who was taken from the wild to star in a TV ad more than 70 years ago, and lived at aquariums in London, Blackpool and Birmingham before settling at Brighton in 2014, has not been in any collision….but recently staff noticed a worrying softening of his shell.
As CT scans of a turtle with no collision damage would be useful to Jan for comparative purposes, Sea Life’s own specialist vet Sue Thornton arranged to have Gulliver scanned as well.
“It was an opportunity to get the most thorough diagnosis possible for one of our best-loved and most remarkable residents,” said Brighton Sea Life general manager Max Leviston.
“And it paid dividends. The scan showed the softening was only superficial, and enabled Sue to prescribe dietary supplements that should cure the problem without need for further treatment.”
Getting the 20-stone turtle out of the ocean display and to the Royal Veterinary College in London and back again was of course a mammoth operation, but Gulliver seemed unperturbed by the experience.
For 31-year-old Californian Jen Oraze, working alongside the world-leading imaging team at the RVC on a project to help sea turtles was very much a labour of love.
“I have been a big fan of marine life most of my life and fell in love with sea turtles when I was lucky enough to encounter them in the wild while diving off Hawaii,” she said.
Jen hopes to publish her findings in a scientific journal and is set to complete her report this month.
Brighton Sea Life
The world’s oldest operating aquarium, open to visitors for more than 140 years, Brighton Sea Life is home to more than 3,500 creatures including sharks, turtles, seahorses, rays and an anaconda.
Highlights include feeding demonstrations throughout the day, an interactive rock pool and the fantastic 360-degree Ocean Tunnel.
The attraction also offers visitors the opportunity to experience the marine world from the unique perspective of a glass-bottomed boat – the first aquarium in the UK to do so.
The aquarium is open every day apart from Christmas Day, from 10am. Check current closing times on the website.
Visit www.visitsealife.com/brighton for more information.