On Tuesday 16 September, Two Oceans Aquarium aquarists Kevin Spiby and Nicholas Nicolle were called out to the NSRI base in Struisbaai to pick up a 12.2kg green sea turtle that had been stranded there.

 

Kevin tells the story: “The NSRI called us to let us know that they had received a stranded green turtle, so myself and Nic drove up to fetch it.

“They found it on one of the local beaches. We set up a little base at the NSRI in April this year, when large numbers of loggerhead hatchlings were washing up on Struisbaai and Arniston beaches. The base consists of a tank, a cube bin, some heaters, really the basics. The turtle was kept in the cube bin overnight, dry, without any water.”

Kevin Spiby gives the sub-adult green turtle a scrub and a rinse. Photo by Ingrid Sinclair

Without knowing the condition of the turtle the NSRI guys felt it was safer for the turtle to be kept dry until expert assistance could be given.

A job for two. Photo by Ingrid Sinclair

“The turtle seems to be in fairly good condition and quite strong, despite being covered in algae. It will receive full medical attention at the Aquarium, where it will be rehabilitated and released back into the ocean as soon as it is healthy,” says Kevin.

Once they arrived at the Aquarium from Struisbaai, Kevin and Nicholas gently scrubbed and scraped the turtle to get rid of the algae, and once they were done it was placed in fresh water.

 

It isn’t normal for sea turtles to be covered in this much algae. It’s also not normal for green turtles to occur this far south in cold water in winter; they prefer temperate conditions.

But why is being covered in algae a bad thing? “Too much algae can weigh the turtle down,” says Kevin.

Kevin and Nicholas Nicolle inspect the turtle for wounds, fractures and other damage. Photo by Ingrid Sinclair 

“You wouldn’t find algae on the shell of a healthy turtle in tropical water,” Nicholas adds. “This animal is probably compromised because it’s been sitting in cold water, off Struisbaai, in winter. The immune system drops and the algae get a chance to grow. And then the turtle perhaps can’t find the rocks on coral reefs where it would normally go and scratch the algae off. Often, if they are sick, they cannot dive and end up floating. ”

“And there are none of the fish that would normally graze on the algae in tropical zones,” says Kevin.

Photo by Ingrid Sinclair 

Kevin and Nicholas had to move quickly once most of the algae was scraped off. “We need to get it into fresh water to rehydrate,” explains Nicholas. “We don’t want to stress it. And it’s also cold outside, so we don’t want to leave it in this air too long.”

The turtle was then moved to a shallow fresh water bin. The water was 20 degrees Celsius on Tuesday and will be increased by one degree every day so as to not send the turtle into temperature shock.

Photo by Ingrid Sinclair

Now the turtle will rest and recuperate until our resident veterinarian Dr Georgina Cole can take blood samples, X-rays and conduct whatever other medical procedures might be needed to find out why the turtle became stranded and what its condition is right now. It could be that the turtle simply got lost, or more seriously, that it has swallowed plastic bags and balloons, like Bob, another rescued green sea turtle here at the Aquarium. There is also the possibility that the turtle might have an infection that needs to be treated.

This green turtle joins three hawksbill turtles, three green turtles and an Olive Ridley along with more than 50 loggerhead hatchlings currently in quarantine and awaiting release. The turtles are monitored closely for any signs of illness or deteriorating health.

Photo by Ingrid Sinclair

We need your assistance

Please help us to continue to be able to give expert medical treatment to turtles and cover the transportation costs involved with releasing them by donating to our conservation fund or buying a specially-designed Turtle Buff®!

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