TWO Oceans Aquarium’s Education Foundation released 44 endangered Loggerhead turtles, which included 40 post-hatchlings, about 30 nautical miles (roughly 55km) off Hout Bay’s coast yesterday.
The 40 post-hatchling Loggerhead turtles weighed about the same as a can of food – between 300g and 1.2kg – and along with the other four turtles were found by the public along Western Cape's beaches over the last several months.
The turtles were declared to be released by the aquarium’s veterinary team after months of rehabilitation that involved X-rays, tube feeding, wound treatments and even MRIs in some instances.
The reason behind releasing the sea-dwelling reptiles 55km from the shoreline is “in order for them to encounter the warmer currents that can be found south of Cape Town during the summer months,” according to the Two Ocean’s Aquarium.
It is revealed that Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on KwaZulu-Natal’s beaches which hatch during the festive season each year.
Once hatched, the tiny turtles then make their way into the Indian Ocean and drift with the Agulhas current.
“The current carries them south towards Cape Town. At about Struisbaai, the current doubles back on itself, heading north again. Along the way, and at the current’s turning point, strong winds and rough seas push some of the tiny turtles into the colder surrounding waters,” the aquarium explained.
The cold-blooded sea-dwelling reptiles require warmer temperatures in order to regulate their body temperature, as do most reptiles and the reason why snakes become active in the summer months.
“The cold water causes the turtles to go into cold shock and hypothermia. These compromised and often injured little turtles are expelled on to the beaches where concerned members of the public find them and bring them to the Two Oceans Aquarium for specialised care and rehabilitation,” the Two Oceans Aquarium said.
Sea pollution – particularly plastic in the oceans – continue to be a hurdle the aquarium’s veterinary teams need to overcome.
A total of 71% of post-hatchlings rehabilitated by the aquarium were found to have digested plastic, which often results in intestinal problems.
Despite the release of the 44 turtles, a number of others still remain in the aquarium’s rehabilitation programme.
This includes three post-hatchling Loggerhead turtles, three juvenile and three sub-adult Loggerhead turtles, as well as a Green turtle “Bob” who has been in rehabilitation since 2014.