As the winter months approach the incidence of turtle strandings increases. Juvenile turtles (mainly loggerheads) are swept down from the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal (where they hatch) in the mighty Agulhas Current and are washed ashore by stormy seas. They are often in a weak condition, having been exposed to cold water and are suffering from dehydration.
The Aquarium rehabilitates these turtles in preparation for their release back into the warm ocean. The turtles range in size from 20g up to 80kg. Rehabilitation can last more than a year, depending on the needs of each individual, as some are not only suffering from hypothermia but are also injured and require treatment.
It costs R27 a day to care for a hatchling
Although tiny, the costs of raising a hatchling add up. On average, it costs R27 (about US$2) a day to care for one of these tiny animals, but an individual's care can vary greatly - some need specialised care. Here's what R27 a day buys for a hatchling:
- Two yummy meals a day - pilchard (currently sponsored by I&J), white mussel and a gel food enriched with spirulina and vitamins A, B, C, E and calcium. Sometimes this is all mixed into a delicious seafood smoothie with prawn, hake, squid and gelatine!
- Ongoing medical care - large amounts of antibiotic and antifungal medication is used to treat the variety of ailments afflicting these weakened arrivals. Many hatchlings are X-rayed to reveal internal injuries or receive specialist veterinary consultations. Some turtles even go to human hospitals to get MRI and CT scans!
- Full-time staff and volunteer care
- Sundries - maintenance of the quarantine and turtle rehabilitation facilities.
- 2009 – 8 turtles released
- 2010 – 19 turtles released
- 2011 – 16 turtles released
- 2012 – 16 turtles released
- 2013 – 10 turtles released
- 2014 – 18 turtles released
- 2015 – 162 turtles released
- 2016 – 66 turtles released
- 2017 - 28 turtles released
- 2018 - 20 turtles released
- 2019 - 194 turtles released
When do we release the hatchlings?
The hatchlings are ideally released in early summer when the Cape's waters are warmer. The southeaster (which we Capetonians love) also brings the retroflecting Agulhas Current closer to the shore, making the release easier for us, and giving the hatchling the best chance of being carried back into the currents that they rely on in their early years.
If we need to release hatchlings earlier than November or December, such as in years when we receive more hatchlings than our facilities can sustain, we fly them to Durban to be released directly into the warm Agulhas Current there.