The first hatchlings have arrived
While Bob has been swimming along our coastline and making great progress, the Turtle Conservation Centre has been very busy. In our care, we currently have two large loggerhead turtles, three green turtles and three hawksbill turtles. We also have seven loggerhead hatchlings that arrived in 2022 and needed extra care before their eventual release.
Hatchling season, or stranding season, is upon us. We have already received five loggerhead hatchlings so far. They were found in False Bay, Strandfontein, and Cape Point – quite a distance for 40-to-60-gram hatchlings to have travelled from the beaches where they hatched in KwaZulu Natal. The annual stranding season runs from March until July but started slightly earlier this year.
Turtle hatchlings strand for several reasons, but injury, cold shock, dehydration, and plastic ingestion are the main culprits. What is cold shock? Turtles are marine reptiles, which means they rely on the temperature of their environment to warm them up. When they are compromised and find themselves in our cold waters, their bodies go into “survival mode”. This means the hatchlings use all their energy to conserve their vital organs. So, instead of exerting energy to swim, the exhausted hatchlings simply float with the currents pushing them in all directions. This often leads to stranding on Western Cape beaches.
Turtle hatchlings are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat anything and everything for them to grow big and strong in the big blue ocean. Unfortunately, microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm) float on the surface, where hatchlings spend most of their time. Sadly, one of our recent arrivals passed away as it had ingested 47 pieces of plastic – it only weighed 44 grams. This is the sad reality which faces our marine life. Thankfully, through rehabilitation, we are able to save many lives.
We believe that even small actions can improve the quality of our oceans. These small actions can be anything from refusing single-use plastics, buying second-hand, participating in beach clean-ups, and raising awareness with friends and family. It is so important to protect our oceans as the earth is an ocean planet: without a living ocean, there is no life at all.