We've teamed up with Consol Glass to celebrate World Turtle Day on 23 May 2022 with a pop-up exhibit activation in the Aquarium. The temporary exhibit will be open from Friday 20 May to Tuesday 24 May 2022, and highlights sea turtle facts and information, all about the threats facing these animals out at sea such as plastic pollution and ghost fishing gear.
Follow the life of a South African sea turtle, from hatchling to the perils of ocean survival - and maybe even being rescued by a human! The exhibit also tells the story of the sea turtle rehabilitation work being done by the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, which is supported by Ardagh Glass Packaging - Africa (AGP-A, formerly Consol Glass).
Learn how you can become a turtle hero and help stranded turtles, and what you can do in your daily life to contribute to protecting sea turtles and ensuring a healthy ocean. Visitors to the Aquarium will be able to interact with some of the members of the Turtle team and enjoy the exhibit as part of their Aquarium visit, at no extra charge over and above the daily entrance ticket.
Our sea turtle rehabilitation work
The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation turtle rehabilitation programme helps stranded sea turtles that have ingested plastic, have been injured in some way or have become entangled in ghost fishing gear. The turtles are all found on Western Cape beaches and brought to the Aquarium by concerned members of the public which is facilitated through an active and strong volunteer network.
How do these turtles become stranded? After hatching on northern KwaZulu-Natal beaches, tiny loggerhead turtles make their way into the ocean and into the warm Agulhas Current, which passes the southern coast of the Western Cape, before turning away from the continent. At this time of the year, strong winds and rough seas push the little turtles out of this warm current, into the cold surrounding waters. The turtles quickly become hypothermic and dehydrated due to the cold water. The drop in their body temperature causes their bodily functions to slow down dramatically. In this weak state, they are unable to fight against the wind and waves and are ultimately expelled onto the beaches. It is here that the public and the turtle rehabilitation programme volunteers find them and take them to the Aquarium. “Standing season” as this time of the year has become known as, is an annual occurrence and takes place from March until June each year.
While in the ocean, the hatchlings feed on any potential food sources that they might find around them. Turtles mistake plastic as a food source, which if consumed, can ultimately lead to their deaths. When plastic enters the ocean, it doesn’t break down like biological materials do. Plastic breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces; to the point where plastic has been found in the smallest of all living organisms in the food chain – plankton.
How many have been rescued so far?
So far this year, over 142 rescued hatchlings have arrived at the Aquarium for rehabilitation. On average this season, each rescued turtle has pooped out five pieces of plastic!
The Aquarium Foundation also rehabilitates sub-adults and adult turtles. These turtles tend to be found slightly later in the year than the hatchlings. The larger turtles tend to get entangled in ghost fishing gear. Ghost gear is fishing gear that is lost at sea, and continues to “fish”, killing whatever it entangles – including sea turtles, fish, dolphins, whales and sharks. Turtles that are found entangled in fishing gear and brought in for rehabilitation often have severe injuries and need specialised care and medication.
The Aquarium Foundation’s rehabilitation programme strives to rehabilitate and release every turtle that is brought to the facility. This process can take a couple of months to many years, and involves specialist medication, veterinary care, x-rays, food, etc. Once the turtles have been given a clean bill of health, they are released back into the ocean with some of the larger individuals being satellite-tagged and tracked for as long as the tag is active.
To find out more about the Aquarium Foundation’s turtle rehabilitation programme, explore the website here.
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