44 Endangered sea turtles get a second chance at life

Date:18 January 2022 Author: Leigh-Ann Londt Tags:, , , , ,

On Monday, 17 January, the sea turtle rehabilitation team at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation released 44 rehabilitated sea turtles south of Hout Bay.

The turtles were rehabilitated at the Two Oceans Aquarium over the last seven months after they were rescued from being stranded on Western Cape beaches by members of the public.

After months of rehabilitation, the turtles were cleared for release by the Two Oceans Aquarium veterinary team. They were all fitted with satellite tags, enabling the animal to be tracked, while others were tagged with microchips, similar to those used in house pets. All of this will allow conservationists to learn more about the natural movements of these animals, helping to make better-informed decisions for the protection of these endangered species in future.

On the morning of the release, all the turtles were packed into travel crates, transported to Hout Bay Harbour and loaded onto two boats – thanks to Hooked On Africa Charters and Barry Stringer of Reef Wetsuits for assisting in this regard.

The team and crew headed out about 30 nautical miles in order for them to encounter the warmer currents that are found south of Cape Town during the summer months. Once these temperate waters were reached, the turtles were released to the great joy of all on board!

Turtle releases like this are always a bittersweet moment for the team, who pour so much of themselves into the passionate care they provide these animals – it’s difficult to say goodbye, but at the same time, watching a turtle swim off to a second chance at life in the ocean is truly a joyful, rewarding moment.

Each year, the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation turtle rehabilitation programme receives a number of sea turtles that get stranded along the Western Cape coastline. These turtles range in size from just a couple of grams to many kilogrammes. They all receive rehabilitation treatment for various injuries and illnesses – from external wounds and dehydration to hypothermia and infection.

Many of the turtles also present with intestinal problems, which more often than not can be attributed to the ingestion of plastic (71% of the post-hatchlings brought in for rehabilitation this year had ingested plastic).

After months of specialised medical care, which includes wound treatments, antibiotics, x-rays, tube feeding, specialised diets, and in some cases MRIs, the turtles are cleared for release. The release coincides with the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean pushing in closer to the coast off of Hout Bay during peak summer. By releasing the turtles in this area, they are able to join the warmer current again and continue with their life at sea.

Even after months of rehabilitation, some of the sea turtles are not healthy enough to be released. Although 44 turtles were released, a number of others remain in the rehabilitation programme. These include three post-hatchling loggerhead turtles, three juvenile loggerhead turtles, Nobomvu (sub-adult loggerhead turtle), three sub-adult loggerhead turtles, and Bob, a green turtle that has been at the Aquarium since 2014, and is still undergoing rehabilitation.

Bob’s story of overcoming severe illness and the ingestion of plastic, inspired extreme athlete and long-distance runner Karoline Hanks, to run the 13 Peaks Challenge back-to-back to raise funds for a satellite tag for Bob. She managed to successfully and triumphantly complete the gruelling 212km. You can help Karoline reach her goal of raising R70 000 by donating here.

The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation is the NPO/PBO partner of the Two Oceans Aquarium. The Foundation relies on donations to continue its work in conservation, education and research. Learn more about their work and how you can support it here.

Picture: Pexels

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