Every sea turtle at the Two Oceans Aquarium is a rescue that is on the path of recovery. The goal is always to release these precious, endangered animals back into the wild as quickly as possible, but "quickly" is relative - sometimes healing can take years! For long-term residents of the I&J Ocean Exhibit, like Bob and Harry, it's easy to forget that these animals are actually undergoing constant care - so let's take a look at the progress of these two remarkable turtles:
Harry has come a long way since he was found on a Stilbaai beach in October 2020, and watching him swim across the I&J Ocean Exhibit really drives this home.
Despite his progress, his route to recovery has been slow, with both his intestinal issues and his "shell rot" skin infection taking a long time to clear. But nothing can stop Harry's magic, and he's a constant reminder that the recovery path of each turtle in our care is unique. What has been most encouraging is seeing the return of Harry's appetite. Harry went from having very little appetite and not pooping often enough...
...to energetically stealing a pepper from Bob! Active feeding behaviour like this is an excellent sign of a turtle's health, and the team is very happy with the progress Harry is making!
To investigate why Harry had not been eating much and whether there could be a possible obstruction in his throat, our turtle team conducted a barium study; taking place over a couple of days with X-rays every few days to observe whether the barium had moved through his system as one would expect.
It appears that Harry’s body has needed a lot of extra time to kickstart again, as a barium study showed that his gut was indeed working steadily. Following the results of his barium study, Harry was taken to visit our amazing friends over at Cape Animal Medical Centre for an endoscope to see whether there were any obstructions in his oesophagus - thankfully no obvious obstructions were identified.
Clearly, 2021 was a rough start for Harry, although we believe his year is finally looking up and there is a lot more positive swimming around the I&J Ocean Exhibit. We believe Harry and Bob are getting along swimmingly, with Harry appearing to take after Bob in loving bum wiggles!
Bob has been at the Aquarium for so long that it's easy to forget they are actually also on a path to recovery and eventual release back into the wild!
A wild turtle should be displaying behaviours like aggressive feeding, hiding and flight response - things Bob has been pretty blasé about. Alex is already seeing results, with Bob responding to new enrichment activities with more "wildness" than has been observed in the past, so we're becoming increasingly optimistic about Bob's release prospects! Here are some examples of improvements Alexandra has observed:
- Bob's predictable swimming patterns have decreased (meaning taking new routes rather than following habit)
- Bob is swimming "randomly" more often - these are swims with no clear goal and are totally exploratory, unlike swimming to a feeding spot when hungry, for example.
- Bob has also shown more aggression during feeding times, meaning active displays of territorial behaviour when feeding.