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What happens when a turtle hatchling arrives at the Turtle Conservation Centre?

By Laura du Toit
- Conservation, Turtles, Foundation, Blog
What happens when a turtle hatchling arrives at the Turtle Conservation Centre?

Stranding season brings many stranded and injured turtles to the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation’s Turtle Conservation Centre. Most often, these are little hatchlings – young turtles that find themselves stranded on Western Cape beaches after being pushed out of the warm Agulhas Current into our cold waters. They are found by our dedicated Turtle Rescue Network and brought to the Aquarium. But what happens when our team receives a new patient?

Weight and measurements

When stranded turtle hatchlings arrive at the Turtle Conservation Centre, our turtle team conducts a series of health checks for each hatchling. First, the little turtle is weighed on an electronic scale. Most hatchlings that arrive range between 40 and 60 grams. Our team then measures their shell and total body length and width. These measurements are important for our team to track the hatchling’s progress as they grow.

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Body condition

This is essential in a hatchling's admittance to the Turtle Conservation Centre. Each turtle is checked for barnacles and algae - more barnacles on a hatchling's shell can indicate that they have been weak for longer or been floating with the current, unable to swim to avoid contact with other marine animals. Typically, our team finds goose, volcano, and burrowing barnacles on hatchlings’ shells. These are marked on the hatchling's chart before they are gently removed. Their body condition is also scored, with 5 being perfect health and 1 being emaciated and weak.

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Once they've been measured and checked for condition, the hatchlings are gently wiped with a veterinary disinfectant that cleans them thoroughly. The disinfectant also cleans out any wounds they might have and allows us to check if there are any fungal and bacterial infections on the hatchling's skin.

What happens when a turtle hatchling arrives at the Turtle Conservation Centre?

Freshwater bath

Lastly, the clean hatchlings are placed in a freshwater bath. When they arrive, these little turtles are often dehydrated and weak. The freshwater bath allows them to rehydrate and rest before they are slowly introduced to a warm saltwater pool.

What happens when a turtle hatchling arrives at the Turtle Conservation Centre?

Each turtle hatchling that arrives at our Turtle Conservation Centre is treated with the utmost care by our team of experts. Most hatchlings stay at the Aquarium for several months, during which time they are rehabilitated and given appropriate treatments. During rehabilitation, the hatchlings have time to grow bigger and stronger for their eventual release in the following summer. 

Turtle Rescue Hotline: 083 300 1663

Call us to report stranded or distressed sea turtles on the Western Cape coast - we'll connect you to members of the Turtle Rescue Network, who will safely transport the turtle to our Turtle Conservation Centre. 

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