Juvenile sea turtles (mainly loggerheads) are carried southward from northern KwaZulu-Natal (where they hatch) by the mighty Agulhas Current, but are ejected from this current by stormy seas associated with Cape winters, sweeping them into cold waters which they cannot survive. When found, they are often weak and dehydrated, many suffering severe injuries as well. The Two Oceans Aquarium rehabilitates these turtles in preparation for their release back into the warm Indian Ocean. Talitha Noble is our turtle rehab facility coordinator.
Since it's not possible to determine the sex of such young turtles, we went ahead and assumed the sexes of these hatchlings.
Newcomers in need
Since our last hatchling update, several newcomers have been rescued and brought to the Aquarium's turtle rehabilitation-and-release centre. These little loggerheads have been badly injured and traumatised by their ordeals at sea. Now they are in our care and we will do our best to ensure that they heal and survive, eventually able to return to their homes big and strong.
Jack Sparrow #33 - Performing surgery on a tiny newcomer
More often than not, the stranded hatchlings we rescue come to us with severe injuries or illness. Jack Sparrow #33 is a tiny loggerhead hatchling that washed up on a beach during the severe storms in June.
Jack Sparrow #33 had suffered some injuries to his eye and eyelid. This required surgical intervention, where part of his eyelid was removed and the damage stitched closed (three stitches is a lot for a tiny turtle).
During surgery, Jack Sparrow #33 was anaesthetised, requiring veterinary staff to manually help him breathe. Little #33 is now healing well, although he is still on antibiotics and we are still evaluating his eyesight. He is eating very well though and we are optimistic!
This little one arrived only a few weeks ago from cold, stormy Kommetjie, weighing in at only 48g. Poor #35 had battle scars galore, bite marks on his flipper, wounds across his body - our little friend had been through the wars!
We are treating these wounds with iodine on a daily basis and feeding the loggerhead hatchling lots of white mussel, though he isn’t quite sure whether or not he likes gel food yet. We are happy with how our newest patient is healing up and eating, hopefully he will start to dive soon too.
How are some of our old favourites doing?
Earlier this year, we introduced Turtle #1, the first loggerhead sea turtle hatchling of the season to wash up on the Cape's beaches. A month later we introduced a few more hatchlings: Tiny #10, Feisty #11 and Tenacious #23. Let's see how these little ones are doing.
You might remember that when our first hatchling of the season arrived, being flown here after rescue in Plettenberg Bay, she weighed a mere 25g and suffered numerous bite wounds. Luckily, she has rebounded!
Our first little arrival has been growing in leaps and bounds, just passing the 100g mark, this is barely a "little" turtle anymore! Life is busy for our little dinosaurs, being fed and treated regularly can be tiring at times. Turtle #1 likes to unwind in the late afternoon with a doze in the sunshine, her head resting in the corner of the tank.
Tiny #10 has faced many difficulties since his arrival a few months ago. Weighing just 44g, he was an absolutly tiny hatchling. Although eating well, #10 was continuously losing weight and struggling to dive. You may remember that a hi-tech X-ray technique was used on him to examine his intestines when he was first brought to us.
Unfortunately, Tiny #10's health continued to decline, and despite the best surgical and medical care we could provide, his health did not improve.
Two Oceans Aquarium veterinarian Brandon Spolander had this to say: “#10 demonstrated some health issues from when first admitted. One of the concerns was with the functions of his intestinal tract. A detailed series of X-rays was undertaken, including contrast media studies over a period of 10 days. This demonstrated that there was an area of the lower intestine that was not functioning normally."
"Due to the turtle's age and size it was decided that exploratory surgery was unwise and would most likely result in the turtle's death. Thus we elected to give the little one a chance with supportive general therapy, immune support and a safe, clean environment to live in in the hope that if there was some foreign material causing impairment of intestinal function, it would be able to pass through on its own."
"Unfortunately this was not to be and although the hatchling did quite well for an initial period, he then became very lethargic and stopped eating. Follow-up X-rays at this point supported the theory that his intestine was blocked and not functioning as it should. Due to the poor success rates of this type of surgery it was elected to euthanise this small turtle rather than have him experience any further suffering."
We believe that the cause of these internal injuries may have been a piece of plastic he ate while still adrift.
When we first introduced Feisty #11, she was quick to try her hunting skills on any unsuspecting finger she encountered, not much has changed as she's grown up - except she now appears to have mellowed out a bit.
Little Feisty #11 likes to cruise about. We often find her gently swimming along the top only using her little back flippers while her front flippers are folded across her back. This quickly changes when food arrives and our chilled #11 turns into a speedboat again!
This little hatchling was dealing with some health problems when we first met her. Bouyancy issues kept her afloat, making it difficult for her to dive (although that didn't stop her from trying).
Great news: Tenacious #23 started diving a few weeks ago! She loves to show off her new skill, proudly swimming all the way to the bottom to get her food - an impressive feat for one so little. #23 has a voracious appetitie, often swimming backwards or flipping upside down when even the smallest whiff of white mussel enters the turtle rehabiltation centre.
Ways to help these hatchlings
Our turtle rehabilitation centre requires around-the-clock attention, specialised medical care and many extra man- and woman-hours. To help us do this life-giving work, please consider making a donation online by clicking here.