We also rehabilitate sub-adult and adult turtles that have washed up on the shoreline. We've rehabilitated loggerhead, green, olive ridley, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles. Seven species of sea turtles live in the warm tropical oceans. Only loggerhead and leatherback turtles nest on the South African coast although green turtles are very common offshore.
Rescue: 31 July 2019
Species: Loggerhead turtle
IUCN status: Vulnerable
Anette was found on Noordhoek Beach, tangled in a ghost fishing net. Tangled in the same net was a Cape fur seal - both animals were incredibly lucky to have washed up before drowning. Freed by the NSRI, Anette is now in our care where she is recovering from digestive tract ailments.
Rescue: 6 November 2014
Species: Green turtle
IUCN status: Vulnerable
Bob was rescued in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, suffering from an injured plastron, and gas buildup under his shell and a bad infection caused by ingesting plastic. Neurological damage affected Bob's mobility and eyesight, and his recovery has been very slow - but he has regained much vigor.
When will they be released?
Deciding when to release an animal in our care is not an easy decision - on one hand, we have the ethical duty to ensure that their chances of survival in the wild are as high as possible, but we also know that the Aquarium is not their permanent home and that their release needs to be as early as possible. Each turtle that passes through our care is unique, and as such, the criteria for their release are unique too, but this is how we do it.
Once the turtle has been rehabilitated, its wounds and ailments healed and its strength regained, its health is assessed by a qualified veterinarian who will clear it for release if they are confident that there is no physiological impairment to the turtle's health. Turtles' metabolisms are very slow, and healing from even minor injuries takes a very long time in comparison to humans, and for this reason, it is not uncommon for turtles to spend relatively long periods of time in our rehabilitation facilities before receiving a vet's clearance.
Our in-house animal husbandry team also form part of the decision-making body, as they are the people most directly in day-to-day contact with the turtles, and thus are best able to comment on their behaviour. Turtles have innate hunting and foraging instincts, and efforts are made to provide them with stimulating enrichment so that their natural behaviours are able to be expressed, which we hope reduces the stress on these animals and will speed up their recoveries.
When all parties are happy with the state of the turtle's health and behaviour, a release date is set to take advantage of ideal weather conditions (for both the boat and the turtle). We make every effort to release the turtle as close as possible to the Aquarium, to reduce the amount of time they will spend in transit.