Hi Kijani! The rehabilitation of this special turtle is being sponsored by John Dory’s Zero Waste Initiative, and the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation’s turtle team has recently introduced her to our I&J Ocean Exhibit for the next step in her recovery – let’s get to know her better!
Late winter and early spring in South Africa sees what our turtle rehabilitation team refer to as “sub/adult turtle stranding season”, a period of time when our coast experiences more strandings of adult and sub-adult green sea turtles. 2022 has been no exception, with our first large sub-adult green turtle (Chelonia mydas) rescued for the season, on 30 July at Trekoskraal near Paternoster on the West Coast (close to where three-flippered green turtle Geri was rescued in 2021).
Named “Kijani” by the rehab team (meaning “green” in Swahili), this turtle was discovered by Spilltech, one of our Turtle Rescue Network partners, high up on the sandy beach, in very poor body condition, very thin, and with over 50% algal coverage. These factors suggest Kijani had been struggling for a long time. Kijani was safely moved off the beach and transported to the turtle hospital at the Two Oceans Aquarium where she was admitted by our own team members Tracy Whitehead and Martine Viljoen.
Road to recovery
On arrival, Kijani felt like an ice block to the touch and was too weak to lift her head. Our initial response was to slowly raise her body temperature by using blankets and hot water bottles. We then gradually increased the temperature of the water we had trickling into her holding space in the turtle hospital, keeping her head propped up above the water level at all times.
Weighing 10.5kg and measuring just 49cm long, Kijani is a small green turtle – but increasing her weight to a healthy level became a priority once her metabolism picked up.
X-rays allow us to look into the internal structures (bones and organs) of any new sea turtle patients received into our care. The arrival X-ray of Kijani will act as a baseline to refer back to for any changes that may be observed during her continued rehabilitation and recovery time.
In August, CT scans of Kijani revealed that she was suffering from pneumonia, with an infected left lung. Under intensive veterinary care, Kijani successfully overcame this infection and was cleared for her “soft” release into the I&J Ocean Exhibit in late September.
What’s Kijani’s personality like?
Kijani has shown a serious appetite for both sea lettuce and protein!
Thankfully, her rehabilitation journey has been steady compared to other turtle patients we have experienced in the past – we are very optimistic!
Soon after “graduating” from our turtle hospital to the larger space of our I&J Ocean Exhibit, Kijani has literally been seen to “walk the talk” and spotted “standing” on all four flippers on the sandy bottom of the exhibit – a very unusual behaviour which we believe is an effort to make herself appear larger in relation to the exhibit’s resident musselcrackers.
Kijani has quickly adapted to the large new space provided by the I&J Ocean Exhibit. She initially appeared unaware of what was in store for her beyond the medical pool, but she has now figured out how to adventure further out; diving, scratching against the rock work, exploring all the crevasses and overhangs. She also shows plenty of curiosity for the other two long-term rehabilitation turtles in I&J Ocean Exhibit – Bob and Turbo.
We are exceptionally impressed with how fast this little turtle has adapted to her new, larger soft release space!
Why do turtles need help?
South African waters see five of the world's seven sea turtle species - all five of these are endangered, and in decline. Sea turtles face a wide variety of risks, but the main factors causing their modern-day decline are caused by humans - habitat destruction, climate change, development on critical nesting sites, ocean plastic pollution, ghost fishing gear, etc. Turtles have no natural way to overcome these challenges, so it is up to humans to help them wherever possible.
With public support and in partnership with local businesses like John Dory's and their Zero Waste Initiative, the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation has actively developed a wide network of members of the public that report stranded and injured sea turtles, and work together to get them to our turtle hospital for recovery. For sea turtles, the toughest "natural" part of their survival is the hatchling stage, so larger turtles like Kijani have a crucial role to fill in preserving their species and increasing their numbers. By giving these turtles a second chance at life in the wild, their species gains more time for us to find ways to tackle the damage being done to their environment.
John Dory's Zero Waste Initiative is sponsoring the rehabilitation of Kijani, and with wider support, we are able to return 75% of all rescued turtles brought to the Aquarium, back to the ocean. Without help, their chance of survival would be 0%. It's up to us to work together to save turtles - say no to unnecessary plastic, join coastal cleanups, support local conservation organisations, and spread the love of our ocean with others - it's what Kijani would want!
John Dory's is donating a further R1 from every Hake and Chips meal to their John Dory’s Zero Waste Initiative, which enhances their ability to support projects like the rehabilitation of Kijani. This initiative's mission is to foster and cultivate a future where environmental sustainability is the cornerstone of our existence, providing education, support, resources, and funding to positively impact our planet’s resources. Follow them on social media for updates on other projects.
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