The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation calls on the public to assist with the rescue of sea turtle hatchlings that are washing up on Western Cape beaches. Referred to by the Aquarium as ‘stranding season’, this is an annual occurrence between March and June. Loggerhead sea turtles hatch on the beaches of Northern KwaZulu-Natal and are carried south by the Agulhas current. Due to injury, dehydration and hypothermia, some of these hatchlings unfortunately wash up onto the beaches around the Western Cape.
This year’s stranding season started early as the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation’s Turtle Conservation Centre received the first hatchlings of the season in late February. The Aquarium Foundation calls on everyone who uses the beaches to be vigilant and to keep their eyes open for these tiny hatchlings.
Keep an eye out and alert the Turtle Rescue Network
Nearly all of the sea turtles brought to the Aquarium for rehabilitation are rescued due to the swift action of caring members of the public who contact the Turtle Rescue Network on the Turtle Rescue Hotline 083 300 1663. Without the support of the public and those making use of the local beaches, hundreds of sea turtles would have died over the years.
“We encourage the public to call the Turtle Rescue Hotline to report stranded or distressed sea turtles on the Western Cape coast – the Turtle Network Co-ordinator will give you the information you need and coordinate efforts to get the turtle into the hands of trained veterinary staff at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation Turtle Conservation Centre” said Talitha Noble, Turtle Conservation Manager.
What to do when you find a sea turtle on a Western Cape beach:
- Do NOT put the sea turtle back in the water
- Do NOT try and give the turtle water or food
- Do NOT cover the turtle but try and provide it with some shade so that it is out of direct sunlight
- Contact the Turtle Rescue Hotline on 083 300 1663
- Follow the instructions as provided by the Hotline
- Do not transport the turtle yourself as it is a TOPs listed species meaning you need a Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) permit from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
Images By: Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation
Rescue and Rehabilitation at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation Turtle Conservation Centre
The Turtle Conservation Centre team at the Two Oceans Aquarium provides stranded hatchlings with medical care and time to recuperate before they are released, usually in the following summer. Sub-adult and adult turtles also strand in the Western Cape, often with extensive physical injuries or even plastic ingestion. They require the same consideration as the hatchling turtle when found by the public on our beaches – do not return the sub-adult to the water and call the Turtle Rescue Hotline. These turtles typically require months of intensive care. Most are satellite tagged before release, and through tagging we know that most re-adapt to life in the ocean well.
Do your bit – make the ocean safe and healthy
Beyond directly rescuing turtles on our beaches, we can all be sea turtle rescuers by making better environmental choices. Choosing to use less plastic in your everyday life can make a big difference to sea turtles, as the majority of those brought in to be rehabilitated by the Aquarium Foundation are found to have ingested plastic. For many, this is a death sentence. You can choose to ‘say no’ to single use-plastic bags, refuse a straw or skip disposable coffee cup lids. You can also say no to balloons and use alternatives for celebrations such as flags and bunting.
You can also donate towards the rehabilitation of a sea turtle by visiting the Aquarium Foundation’s https://www.aquarium.co.za/foundation/support. R5000 covers the cost of rehabilitating one hatchling sea turtle, but any amount is welcome as it will contribute to the amazing rescue, rehabilitation and release work that the Foundation does.
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