By David Keane
An endangered green sea turtle who was so lonely that he had begun being amorous with a ROCK in his tank has found love on the sea life version of Plenty of Fish – with a female 200 miles away.
Ernie enjoyed 12 years of bachelor life but it was clear he was ready for a mate when he was spotted repeatedly attempting to get frisky with a large stone in his Manchester Sea Life Centre aquarium.
Thankfully, Ernie’s specialist carers were only too happy to play matchmaker and before long found Cammy in their list of eligible companions – a 16-year-old female living at Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre in Scotland.
Following a 250-mile four-hour drive, Cammy was united with Ernie for the first time today and the duo dispelled any fears over potential ‘argy bargy’ by mating within just 10 minutes of meeting.
Footage shows Cammy being lowered carefully into the tank yesterday [MON] before the duo meet for the first time.
Divers were seen on hand to ensure the introduction went smoothly however quickly realised they were not required as footage shows the turtles become ‘more than friendly, more than once’ – in front of the underwater love heart sign ‘Cammy for Ernie’.
Resident sea turtle expert Emma Whittle of the centre said: “Ernie is definitely very fond of Cammy. He was following her around the tank and they even were more than friendly more than once.
“Although the introduction was more than successful, we’ve decided to use the tank divider in the Ocean Tank, so Cammy can adapt to the new environment and to give her a bit of a break after her long journey.
“We put it in about two hours after Cammy was placed in the tank and it will stay on for couple of days only. Currently Cammy is resting and seems very relaxed.
“Ernie’s affection towards the rock is normal for male turtle behaviour if they don’t have a partner.
“Not having a female companion doesn’t have any negative effects on the male turtles, it’s not dangerous to their health or emotional condition. However now with Cammy joining Ernie, he has got company, extra enrichment and definitely exercise.
“However Cammy seem to swim faster than he does, so he will have to keep up with her.”
While many sea turtles can take between 10-50 years to reach this point, Ernie was spotted getting frisky with inanimate objects at the age of 12.
Meanwhile up in Scotland, Cammy’s carers were worried that she was due to start producing eggs after she went of her food.
Mark Hind, sea turtle specialist at Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre and Cammy’s carer, said: “Cammy is now 16-years-old, so she is a sexually mature female and will start to produce eggs very soon.
“If she doesn’t have any male company, she won’t be stimulated to release her eggs and they are likely to become infected inside her, which could cause huge – potentially life threatening – health problems. She’s also gone off her food a bit recently, which is a sign she is probably pining for a mate.
“Fortunately, our colleagues at Manchester Sea Life Centre have a male green sea turtle who has reached sexual maturity – we understand poor Ernie has been making amorous advances to a large rock in the bottom of their ocean tank – so we put our heads together to do a bit of match-making.
“We are really, really going to miss Cammy, but it’s the best thing possible for both turtles and we are keeping everything crossed they will find happiness together.”
Before the introduction between the duo, Emma said: “We are so excited Cammy will be joining us at Manchester Sea Life Centre and are looking forward to continuing the excellent care she has received by our colleagues in Loch Lomond.
“We know the team there spent many months nursing her back to health after she was rescued in the Cayman Islands after ingesting plastic from ocean pollution. Her intestines are now very sensitive, so we have had a full briefing on her diet and healthcare.
“Ernie is a very friendly, sociable turtle, he is always looking for attention from our divers when they are cleaning the ocean tank and loves tummy rubs, so we have high hopes he and Cammy will take to each other right away.
“However, we also need to bear in mind there’s a chance they won’t and there could be a little argy-bargy at first to establish who’s boss, in which case we will have two divers on hand to make sure neither turtle gets hurt.
“We’ve also had a temporary partition wall made that we can lower into the tank should the turtles need a little more time to get used to each other.”
Thirteen endangered sea turtles have forever homes at nine different Sea Life aquariums across the UK because their histories mean they cannot be re-released into the wild.
While Cammy is a victim of ingesting ocean pollution, others have been injured as a result of over-zealous tourism, suffering permanent brain or shell damage from collisions with speed boats in popular holiday resorts.
Sea Life staff hope the turtles’ stories will inspire visitors to support the Sea Life Trust charity’s #TeamTurtle campaign, encouraging members of the public to make personal pledges on the http://teamturtle.sealifetrust.org/pledge website in an effort to reduce plastic ocean pollution.
Pledges so far include using reusable shopping bags, reusable drinking straws and reusable water bottles