You might have seen in recent media reports that the Two Oceans Aquarium is currently rehabilitating a large number of sea turtles – 115 hatchling loggerhead turtles, to be precise, and seven other sea turtles ranging in size from 10kg to 89kg. All this is after we sent 74 hatchlings to uShaka Sea World for release in May.
The Aquarium has been rehabilitating sea turtles for several years. From April through to the end of winter every year, the public is asked to keep an eye open for hatchling loggerhead sea turtles that wash up on beaches along the Eastern and Western Cape coasts as a result of rough sea conditions. The Aquarium rehabilitates the small turtles and once ready, they are sent to Durban for release by uShaka Sea World back into the warm waters where they started their journey.
This year, the influx has been unprecedented and to date, the Aquarium has received more than 200 stranded hatchlings!
What does it take to look after these turtles? Well, it takes a lot of time, a lot of manpower, and in some cases, a lot of medication as well as a considerable amount of money to ensure that each turtle receives the best care possible for its rehabilitation and ultimate release. Most of all, however, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work by a small group of individuals.
On arrival, each turtle receives a freshwater bath to help with rehydration, and to remove algae and other organisms from its shell (carapace). The turtle also undergoes a veterinary examination and, if necessary, immediate first aid and medication. If the turtle shows no visible signs of injury and seems strong, it is placed in a holding tank where it is closely monitored. Each turtle is handled on an individual basis, therefore examined, treated, weighed and fed, one by one. The weaker turtles are checked daily. In some cases, where the turtles are unable to maintain their buoyancy and are at risk of drowning, they are fitted with neoprene jackets to ensure that they can float and breathe easily at the surface.
The rehabilitation of these turtles can take many months. During this time, the Aquarium carries all costs associated with the rehabilitation – medication, food, external veterinary requirements, additional casual staff, etc. Once the turtles are ready for release, the Aquarium also foots the bill for flying them to Durban. Having such a large number of sea turtles for rehabilitation this year has also meant that the Aquarium has had to employ a number of rehabilitation staff to help look after them.
In the past two months, the Aquarium has spent close to R50 000 on rehabilitating juvenile turtles alone. These costs continue to increase as more turtles are brought in.
You can help the Aquarium with rehabilitating these endangered animals by donating to our conservation efforts. A donation of just R500 will enable us to provide comprehensive care for each turtle, including micro-tagging each turtle for individual identification. Become a turtle ambassador and click here to donate. Fully 100% of donations are used for our conservation projects – check out some of our other projects here.
You can also make a daily difference by supporting the Aquarium’s environmental campaigns and by making a Penguin Promise. Whatever we do on land affects the ocean, and we need a healthy ocean to ensure a healthy planet.