14 May 2014

Stranded turtles: What to do

Kevin Spiby, Claire Taylor, Renée Leeuwner

It’s that time of year again, when the Two Oceans Aquarium starts to receive calls from concerned members of the public who come across stranded juvenile (and occasionally sub-adult) turtles on the beaches of the Western Cape. The turtles you may come across are most likely hatchlings and the size of your hand. They wash up on our beaches, suffering from hypothermia.

A juvenile loggerhead turtle

Sea turtles, being temperate-water animals, don’t fare well in our icy Cape waters and it is crucial that they get help as quickly as possible. The Two Oceans Aquarium is here to help! Read on to learn more about what you can do should you come across a marine turtle stranded on the beaches around Cape Town.

Please note: This advice is only valid for marine turtle strandings around the Western Cape. Should you come across a turtle elsewhere around the South African coast, please contact the local aquarium or animal rehabilitation centre.

Remove the stranded turtle from the water

Once you have found a tiny turtle on the beach around the Cape Town coast, it needs rehabilitation. The first thing to do is to remove the turtle from the beach and place it in a dry container where it cannot drown.

Keep it at room temperature to warm up slowly. These turtles are most likely suffering from hypothermia, which makes them weak; in most instances they are so weak that they cannot lift their heads.
Turtles breathe air, just like us, and if a turtle cannot lift its head out of the water, it cannot breathe and will drown.

Call us

Call us as soon as you can on +27 (0)21 418 3823.

Remember to take note of where the animal was found. It will help us if you could let us know the accurate size and species of the turtle. That way, we can prepare a specific rehabilitation tank for it, before it arrives.

The turtle species most commonly found stranded around Cape Town is the loggerhead turtle. Occasionally you may find a leatherback turtle and perhaps even a slightly larger sub-adult green sea turtle.

A juvenile leatherback turtle. Photo courtesy Jennie - My Travels

How to transport turtles

Simply place the turtle in a suitably sized container that allows the turtle to breathe freely. Keep the turtle at room temperature so that it slowly warms up.

Contact us immediately and get the turtle to us as quickly as possible.

Very important: At no stage should the turtle be placed in water as it could drown.

The Aquarium has a team of trained aquarists who have lots of experience in caring for stranded turtles.

Check out the amazing release of 19 juvenile loggerhead turtles we rehabilitated and released in 2010.

See also

Stay in touch: for daily Aquarium updates, follow us on Twitter (@2OceansAquarium) and become a fan on Facebook.

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