Cape Town - There has been an outpouring of support for the Two Oceans Aquarium (TOA) Education Foundation’s sea turtle rehabilitation programme.
This after the foundation called for Capetonians to assist with the rescue of sea turtle hatchlings that were washing up on Western Cape beaches during the current sea turtle hatchling stranding season.
The foundation’s update on the sea turtle hatchling stranding season showed that the rehabilitation programme received 124 hatchlings of which 121 were loggerheads and three were leatherbacks.
However, only 102 turtles were currently in care as some had passed away and some were still in critical care undergoing treatment before they were able to join the other hatchlings.
TOA communications manager Renée Leeuwner said some of the sea turtles were already so badly compromised due to injury, hypothermia and dehydration that by the time they arrived at the rehab centre they were unfortunately too far gone.
“Many of them have also ingested plastic, which causes their death as it travels through their digestive systems and causes extensive damage,” Leeuwner said.
Leeuwner said the number of pieces of plastic being retrieved from these turtles indicated the turtles were being severely compromised by human-made pollution in the ocean.
Talitha Noble, conservation manager for the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, said: “When the hatchlings first come in they fit in the palm of your hand and they often come in extremely dehydrated and injured but with some love, care, food and medical attention they often recover really well.”
After being rescued, Noble said the turtles first entered their ICU for two weeks and were then moved to the general ward hospital area where they got fed regularly and received whatever medical attention they needed.
Then, over the course of six to nine months, they grew until they were healthy enough to be released back into the ocean to contribute towards their population size.
Leeuwner said this year had been very busy compared with last year. They have had more than 100 turtles brought in since mid-March and expected even more turtles to arrive by mid-winter. She encouraged people to keep a lookout for sea turtles washing ashore on Western Cape beaches.