Alvi the green sea turtle is on a mission and seems to be loving his life, back in the wild!
Cape Town, South Africa (13 January 2021) – Alvi is an incredible South African conservation story! After swimming to land for help with a plastic bag lodged in his throat, the endangered green sea turtle was rescued and spent a year in rehabilitation before being released… and now we can happily report that the little turtle is thriving in the wild!
It is always so inspiring to see how rescued sea turtles not only survive but truly thrive after rehabilitative care and subsequent release back into the ocean.
All sea turtle species are listed as endangered or threatened, and over the last decade the Two Oceans Aquarium together with many partners, supporters and the general public rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released well over 600 turtles. The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, the Aquarium’s non-profit and public benefit partner, has been managing this impactful conservation program and is currently still tracking Alvi in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.
Alvi had to have a plastic bag removed from his throat in 2018 after washing up in Struisbaai. He made a remarkable recovery and was released in November 2019 and spent the first few months exploring the West Coast enjoying Elands bay, Cape Columbine and Saldanha Bay and in April 2020 started heading up the coast at quite a fast pace.
“Despite spending over a year in rehabilitation, Alvi clearly remained undaunted by the open ocean – a reminder of how resilient these animals are.”
Before release, Alvi was fitted with a satellite tag that will enable the conservation team and the Department of Environmental Affairs to track his movements at sea for, hopefully, a few years. This tag was attached to Alvi’s carapace with epoxy and will fall off over time as Alvi grows.
This data will be incredibly valuable; usually, only sexually mature female turtles return to land to lay eggs, so most tagging programmes are only able to collect data from these turtles as they are the ones most commonly encountered by humans. The team strongly suspect that Alvi is a male, but even if Alvi is an immature female, it will be interesting to see just how he or she chooses to migrate. In nature, male turtles and turtles of Alvi’s young age never approach land and very little is known about their movements – in fact, this period of a turtle’s life is referred to as “the lost years”.
And the tag is tracking Alvi perfectly! A month after being released, he entered Namibian water and travelled across the Walvis Ridge and passed St Helena Island. By September 2020 Alvi found an area about 450 km north of the island to call his home territory (for now) with the water temperature at a lovely 24°C. 411 days back in the ocean, just over 7000 km travelled at an average distance of 17 km/day.
“What a little champ and a fantastic ocean ambassador creating awareness around the threat of single-use plastics to marine life.”
The Aquarium Foundation had a busy 2020 turtle rescue season, despite lockdown, and looking forward to releasing some recovered and healthy sea turtles back into the ocean soon.