Ten-year-old Jon Elling is a regular visitor to Albania. His family owns a beach apartment in the coastal town of Durrës. Their annual treat is to swap the cold of their native Norway for the warmth of the Mediterranean.
One evening in 2005, during their summer vacation, Jon Elling, his big sister Tove Elise, and their mother Kirsti, were invited to dine with the director of the hotel across the street from their apartment. The high point of the evening was when the hotel director showed his guests his latest acquisition: a huge sea turtle given to him by local fishermen.
But the turtle revelation did not have the desired effect on Jon Elling or Tove Elise. They were shocked to see so large a creature in captivity – and in so small a pool. They told the director that the turtle needed a bigger pool.
Despite illegally keeping a sea turtle captive, the hotel director was a kind man. On hearing the children’s reaction, he offered to set the turtle free if that’s what they wanted. Indeed it was, so they arranged to return it to the wild that very evening. And Jon Elling was put in charge of operations.
They lifted the sizeable turtle (about a meter long) onto a trolley and wheeled it down to a nearby pier. At the end of the pier, they eased it into the sea where it disappeared below the waves. All that remained were the turtle’s identification tags that had come off in the pool.
The hotel director gave the tags to the children with the instruction that they should find out where the turtle came from.
Back in Norway, Kirsti searched on the Internet. She found the SEATURTLE website where she related her story. From there it passed on to the MEDTURTLE discussion group where we picked it up. Our reaction at MEDASSET was as prompt as the hotel director’s: we sent the children a small gift and a heartfelt thank you message on behalf of Jon-Tove, the turtle that we named in honour of the two children who set it free.
Following our research into the identity of Jon-Tove, the tag revealed that the turtle, a female, had been tagged in Durrës on 22nd March 2003, when she was caught at a depth of 25m. At that time her curved shell measured 43cm long with a width of 39cm.