A 13-year-old Poling girl is to fly to a paradise island to report on injured sea turtle that shares her name.
Morgan Yates, a student at The Angmering School, won a competition to become official junior sea turtle champion for Brighton Sea Life Centre, helping to raise awareness of turtle conservation needs.
She has already worked with Sea Life staff to make a conservation video and is now being sent on the journey of a lifetime to meet Morgan the olive ridley sea turtle in the Maldives.
Her mission will be to film Morgan and learn as much as she can about her namesake, before the turtle makes the return journey to become the first olive ridley turtle to be re-homed in a British aquarium.
Max Leviston, manager of Brighton Sea Life, said: “It was always our intention to send our junior sea turtle champion to visit a working turtle conservation or rescue centre somewhere overseas.
“She is so passionate and enthusiastic about these amazing animals that we want to give her every opportunity to help inspire other young people to share that passion.
“The Maldives are a much more exotic location than we originally envisaged but as soon as we heard about the amazing coincidence of the injured olive ridley also being christened Morgan, we knew that was where we should send her.”
Morgan the turtle was rescued after getting entangled in discarded fishing net, known as ghost netting, which drifts in the ocean currents and is a potential death-trap for marine life.
Rescuers saved the turtle’s life but the two right-side flippers were so badly damaged, they had to be amputated and Morgan is thought unlikely to survive in the wild without them.
At the rescue centre, run by the Olive Ridley Project, a conservation project on the idyllic Baa Atoll islands which cares for many ghost-netting casualties, a plan was hatched to provide long-term care.
As the project had just received vital funding from the Sea Life network’s fast-growing partner charity The Sea Life Trust, founder Martin Stelfox contacted the aquarium brand and a comfortable new home for Morgan was quickly found.
As soon as all the necessary and complex paperwork is completed, the turtle will fly to the UK to be settled into a luxurious and spacious tropical tank at Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre.
Parents Tony Yates, 37, and Kerry Bentley, 33, took Morgan on holiday to the Cape Verde islands a few years ago. They were right next to a turtle nesting beach but it was not nesting season and they were disappointed not to see any turtles.
Morgan’s interest in turtles grew when she made one out of paper maché as a science project. Soon after, she responded to Sea Life’s appeal to find a young enthusiast to spearhead its turtle conservation efforts by writing her own sea turtle-themed story.
She will travel to the Maldives at the end of May with her parents, Sea Life team member Olivia Cottrell and Andy Bool, head of the Sea Life Trust.
Morgan will be reporting on all the work carried out by the Olive Ridley Project for the Sea Life Trust, which is championing turtle conservation as part of its broader goals of combating plastic pollution, overfishing and habitat protection.
Volunteers clear tons of ghost-netting from Maldivian waters and run a community outreach programme in a bid to reduce the problem.
Olive ridleys rarely nest in the Maldives but are the most commonly encountered turtle species there and since 2011, have featured in more than 300 cases of ghost-net entanglement.