A BALE of young Loggerhead turtles saved from certain death after being found along Western Cape beaches, suffering from hypothermia, got their first taste of the warmer currents off the Durban coast yesterday.
The 17 turtles were all found washed up on beaches between April and May, after finding themselves in the wrong current and unable to survive the icy Cape temperatures, Ann Kunz from the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) said.
“Concerned members of the public who found the turtles at various times between April and May and took them to Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. There they spent the next six or seven months regaining their health under the care of dedicated Two Oceans staff members.”
By November, all 17 were fit enough to be flown to uShaka Sea World to join other turtles in the uShaka Turtle Rehabilitation facility. For the next three months, they were closely monitored and further prepared for release by the Animal Health team. Having healthy appetites meant they continued to gain weight and strength.
Last week, uShaka Sea World’s resident veterinarian, Dr Francois Lampen, took pre-release blood samples and when all 17 turtles were declared fit for release, staff started looking at weather charts to decide on the most suitable day for release.
Yesterday staff from both Two Oceans Aquarium and uShaka Sea World took the turtles five nautical miles off the Durban coast and released them into the warm Agulhas current.
Kunz said young turtles thrive for the first few years of their life by floating in the open ocean at water temperatures around 22° Celsius. They feed off small jelly fish, blue bottles, raft hydroids and other small creatures found on the ocean’s surface, and are well designed for life in the open ocean.