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Turtle Conservation Centre

Turtle Conservation Centre

Sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and release

In the wild, only one or two out of every 1 000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood - these figures are now even worse due to the increased pollution, climate change, and other hazards caused by human activity. Our Turtle Conservation Centre works to ensure that endangered sea turtles are protected. We are working around the clock to improve these statistics and contribute to the recovery of sea turtle numbers worldwide.

We have achieved an incredible 85% release rate, and our team continues to contribute to the growing global knowledge base of turtle rehabilitation and treatment plans.

What work do we do?

Turtle Rescue Network

The Turtle Rescue Network was established to connect like-minded people and organisations along the Western Cape coastline with the purpose of rescuing stranded turtles as efficiently and safely as possible. The Turtle Rescue Network Points are the incredible organisations and community groups trained to facilitate efficient and safe turtle rescues. Many members of the Turtle Rescue Network provide temporary holding for stranded turtles, from where we arrange their transport to the safety of the Turtle Conservation Centre.

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Turtle Conservation Centre

Hatchling rehabilitation

Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles nest along the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast in summer, during which thousands of turtle hatchlings enter the warm and fast-flowing Agulhas Current. Some of these hatchlings wash up on Western Cape beaches, usually weak, dehydrated, and cold. These turtles require a lot of care and often medical intervention to save their lives. 

Our Turtle Rescue Network Coordinator ensures the safe transport of these little patients to our hospital at the Two Oceans Aquarium. After a full medical assessment, we initiate appropriate treatments for issues such as partial flipper amputations, plastic ingestion, respiratory tract infections, and hypothermia. The hatchlings typically stay with us until winter is over, allowing them time to heal and grow before release in summer. 

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Turtle Conservation Centre

Long-term care

Sub-adult and adult sea turtles also wash up on our shore. These turtles usually display extensive external physical injuries, from boat strikes to entanglement in ghost fishing gear. Many suffer from plastic ingestion, too. We have had loggerhead, green (Chelonia mydas), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sub-adult and adult turtles arrive at our Turtle Conservation Centre.

These turtles usually require much more intensive care, from MRIs and surgeries to dry-dockings, and often spend months with us. During the final stages of rehabilitation, they enjoy the space in the I&J Ocean Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium to strengthen their limbs and get them fit for release. We satellite-tag most of the larger turtles and can confidently say that they re-adapt to life in the ocean incredibly well. Following their post-rehabilitation journeys contributes to a global database of turtle movement in the oceans.

Turtle Conservation Centre

Turtle releases

The rescue, rehabilitation, and release programme aims to get all our turtles back into the ocean. Sometimes the rehabilitation process takes a few weeks, as is the case with leatherback sea turtles, or years with others. Most of our turtles are released off the coast of Cape Town, with the help of various friends of the Foundation, such as the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Hooked on Africa.

Larger sea turtles are usually tagged, while hatchlings are chipped so they can be identified should they get stranded somewhere else.

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What if I find a stranded turtle?

Finding an injured turtle can be daunting when you aren’t sure what to do, but we can help. The most important thing to remember is don’t put the turtle back into the water. If the turtle is injured, shocked or dehydrated, it won’t be able to swim away. 

Contact your nearest Turtle Rescue Point on 083 300 1663 – they are equipped to transport the turtle to the Turtle Conservation Centre.

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Turtle Conservation Centre

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