Martine Viljoen plays a role at the Two Oceans Aquarium in helping rehabilitate stranded hatchlings, and with the first arriving, she has a valuable message.
Cape Town, South Africa (05 March 2021) – The Two Oceans Aquarium started preparing for Turtle Stranding Season back in January, and the first rescue arrived at the aquarium this past week. Martine Viljoen shares her first rescue and loss to highlight how fragile these young hatchlings are in their first months.
Martine has been a volunteer with the aquarium since 2010 and has seen many hatchlings come and go in that time.
So many of these hatchlings wash up on the Western Cape coastlines because when they are born on the Northern beaches in KwaZulu-Natal, they make their way into the ocean and towards the warm Agulhas current.
If a hatchling is lucky, it will be carried by the Agulhas Current as it turns east off the coast of the Western Cape and out into the warm Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy for the little hatchlings, and many of them are ejected from the Agulhas Current into the cold water of the Atlantic. This water is too cold for these hatchlings to survive, and they get gradually weaker and weaker as they try to return to the Agulhas – an effort that is made increasingly difficult in bad weather or if the turtle has been harmed by ingesting plastic pollution.
These weakened hatchlings inevitably wash up on the Western Cape’s coast, and without human intervention, they have no chance of surviving. We have a responsibility to help these animals.
The hatchlings that wash up in the Western Cape are all taken to the Two Oceans Aquarium. Once they have been rehabilitated and are healthy enough, they are released back into the ocean.
We shared a very helpful post about what to do if you find a stranded turtle hatchling which you can read here.
Martine shared her first hatchling experience of the season on social media, and it is a reminder of why we should all keep working to remove plastic from the beaches and waterways of South Africa.
“March marks the beginning of our Aquarium Foundation Turtle Stranding Season ( March – July ).
The first hatchling of the stranding season is something we always anxiously anticipate & work hard to be prepared for. There are many “oohs” and “ahhs” when it arrives, as we are always blown away by how small these creatures are in their first few months.
What I had forgotten & was starkly reminded of this morning was the darker reason for why our rehab exists. Turtle #1 arrived on the 2nd March weighing 31g & sadly passed away overnight on the 3rd March.
Inside his stomach & gut, #1 had 21 pieces of hard & 2 pieces of soft plastic, the biggest of these measuring 12mm long & 3mm wide ( coin for size reference ). Context the gut diameter is only 3mm. Yes, cold shock & dehydration were the reason he stranded, but a big contributor to his death was the microplastic that #1 had consumed.
Turtles are messengers of the sea & indicators of oceans health. #1 & so many turtles before it are telling us, loud & clear, that our oceans are not healthy & do not provide a safe home for those that live in it.
We are the ones that have made it unsafe. We are the ones that need to listen.
If you would like to show your support for our seasons upcoming hatchlings, please consider a small recurring donation to our #AquariumFoundation. These recurring donations help the team ensure the biggest impact possible can be made with the work we are doing for our turtles!”
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