We're pleased to announce an official partnership with Cape Exotic Animal Hospital, which will be supporting the veterinary care of our animals!

Our relationship with Cape Exotic Animal Hospital has been longstanding, with their staff of veterinarians regularly making themselves available to assist with the specialised care and treatment of the animals in our care. Treating penguins with eye injuries, providing rescued sea turtles with emergency medical care and surgically implanting tracking tags in sharks released for research - these are just a few of the ways that the wonderful staff at Cape Exotic Animal Hospital assist the Aquarium's own veterinary team.

Dr Bernice van Huyssteen and the other veterinarians at the Cape Exotic Animal Hospital have long been involved in providing care for rescued sea turtles brought to the Aquarium - like Jenga the hawksbill turtle which was successfully rehabilitated and released in 2018.

This formal partnership is our way of acknowledging the more than R150 000 worth of veterinary care that Cape Exotic Animal Hospital does for us annually - thank you!

It's official, Cape Exotic Animal Hospital manager Martin Botha (back left) and veterinarian Dr Bernice van Huyssteen (front left) meet Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Maryke Musson (front right) and Operations Manager Tinus Beukes (back right) to formalise our partnership.

We chatted with the manager and co-founder of the Cape Exotic Animal Hospital, Martin Botha, about the work that he and his team get up to:

"Hi Martin, can you tell us a little about your team and why you've decided to come on board as a partner of the Two Oceans Aquarium?"

Martin: "The main reason that we wanted to do this is that we've really connected with the Two Oceans Aquarium and I think that our culture here [at the Cape Exotic Animal Hospital], even though we are a private practice, is very similar to that of the Aquarium. And our staff click so well together, there's a general consensus among our whole team that we want to be involved.

We've done plenty of work with the Aquarium, working on the turtles, moving the sharks, helping move the kob, working closely with Brandon Spolander [the Aquarium's veterinarian], and now we are becoming more involved in the seal project. There are so many ways we are already involved in doing pro bono work at the Aquarium, we just wanted to make it formal."

Sr Brigitte Böhmer of the Cape Exotic Animal hospital was instrumental in saving the life of Lego, an endangered Western leopard toad which lost its leg after being run over by a car.

"Have any of the animals your team has worked with here really made an impression on you?"

Martin: "The coolest one was definitely the movement of the two ragged-tooth sharks a while ago. I got a phone call from Brandon and he was like 'Howzit, what are you doing?' And I replied that I was shopping or something, so he replies 'I'm away at the moment - do you want to move two sharks for me?' and I was like 'Whaaat!?'. That ended up being a really cool experience.

Moving sharks is no easy task, and it's critically important to have skilled veterinarians on hand to administer the correct dose of sedatives to the sharks, check their health during transit, and to ensure that they awaken fully from these sedatives before being allowed to roam.  (The skin of sharks is highly abrasive, so a smooth plastic sleeve is used to move them to avoid injury to both the animal and the staff involved.)

But I must add that where the heart comes in is really the work with the turtles. We've been involved with Bob and Sandy, doing ultrasounds on them and that has been some of the most special stuff that we've done."

A lot of information is hidden under a turtle's shell, and a skilled ultrasound operator is able to answer questions like, what is the turtle's sex? Or are there any internal injuries?

"You personally aren't a veterinarian, but you obviously have a passion for work with animals. Where does that come from?"

Martin: "Honestly, I wasn't raised to be an animal lover, because I wasn't exposed to it, my family had two sausage dogs and I think that was it.

But then, about 8 years ago I met Bernice, which was funny, my sister ran to my mom and said 'Mommy guess what!? Martin has a girlfriend. And guess what she does? She's a vet, and Martin doesn't even like animals!' But honestly, that's where things changed for me, because the exposure to it just brought in something completely different into my life."

Even tiny lives take big efforts to save.

"So it's not an old love, it's a new love, but we get involved in everything. The business is obviously about an income, but the pro bono work is all about the love; whether it's with Cheetah Outreach, the Two Oceans Aquarium, Eagle Encounters, Monkey Town, wherever - I find it wonderful."

Dr van Huyssteen and her team featured as some of our "Turtle Heroes" for all the incredible work they do to give these animals a second chance.

"Is there any final message you'd like to leave our readers with?"

Martin: "We've got a responsibility towards wildlife and to the animals we keep, whether it's a private animal, or out in the fields or in the ocean - we're just a small drop in the ocean when it comes to preserving life and making sure that we leave something for future generations, so it's up to all of us."

Tasmyn the African penguin began waddling with a limp, so Cape Exotic Animal Hospital came to the rescue by sedating him and giving him an X-ray. Luckily, Tasmyn only had a minor sprain!

Thank you Martin, Bernice and the whole veterinary team at the Cape Exotic Animal Hospital for bringing so much passion and expertise to the table - we certainly are looking forward to a long and wonderful relationship (and we're sure that the animals in our care are just as excited).

From conservation and environmental education to bringing amazing exhibits to the public and taking mobile aquariums on the road to school, the Two Oceans Aquarium has had the incredible pleasure of working with partners in the public and private sectors - welcome to the family Cape Exotic Animal Hospital.

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