JC the rescued Donegal turtle to go on display

JC in the water tankImage source, Exploris
Image caption,
JC the turtle has been transferred to a large tank in Exploris where he can dive and swim

JC the loggerhead turtle who washed up on a County Donegal beach in January has recovered sufficiently to go on display to the public.

The turtle was rescued by the Johnstone family in Rosbeg and has been recuperating at the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, County Down.

The team at Exploris has been increasing the turtle's temperature by a few degrees every day.

Visitors to the aquarium will be able to meet JC starting from 16 March.

Image caption,
Loggerhead turtles are usually found in much warmer waters (archive photo)

The loggerhead was critically ill and suffering from "cold-stunning" when he arrived at the aquarium but is now being moved to a bigger tank to allow him to swim and dive.

The turtles usually remain in the warmer waters of the mid-Atlantic, not returning to shore until they are seven to 12 years old.

It is believed that JC may have been caught in the gulf stream and swept hundreds of miles off course.

Peter Williams, curator at Exploris said: "I am now happy to report that JC is making slow but great progress and is currently feeding well on a variety of fish and invertebrates. He is also receiving a gelatin diet full of calcium, vitamins and minerals which is important for the development of his shell."

"We also decided, under the watchful eye of our veterinary team, to administer a course of antibiotics as an increase in temperature heightened the risk of a secondary infection setting in," Mr Williams said.

Image source, Daniel Johnstone
Image caption,
JC has been treated for "cold-stunning"

The turtle was removed from the beach at Rosbeg in mid-January by locals who feared it would be attacked by seagulls.

It was brought to Daniel Johnstone because he had previous experience in seal rescues.

Mr Johnstone told the BBC it was given the name Julius Caesar by his nine-year-old daughter Síomha, "because she thought the turtle was a fighter".

Image source, Daniel Johnstone
Image caption,
Nine-year-old Síomha helped bathe the stricken turtle in seawater

The team at Exploris say JC has a bright future - they will continue to monitor his weight over the coming months and plan to release him back to the sea when he has fully recovered.

Such strandings are rare according to the aquarium, but it is not the first time Exploris has tried to nurse a lost loggerhead back to health.

In January 2015, another loggerhead turtle washed up on a County Donegal beach and it was also taken to the Portaferry aquarium suffering from hypothermia.

Exploris staff named that male turtle Columba, but sadly it died a short time later.