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24 May 2019

Rescued turtle hatchlings released off east coast

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: SAAMBR staff released 106 rescued Loggerhead turtle hatchlings north of Durban PHOTO: SAAMBR

MORE than 100 rescued and rehabilitated Loggerhead turtle hatchlings were released just north of Durban today, timed perfectly to commemorate World Turtle Day. The 106 hatchlings were part of a batch recently flown to Durban from Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium after having been rescued from Cape beaches. They were deemed fit for release by the South African Association of Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR).

The hatchlings would have hatched earlier in the year on one of the beaches in northern KZN and been carried down the coast in the Agulhas current. The current weakens as it reaches the southern Cape waters and, as it reflects eastwards, it usually carries baby turtles into the Indian Ocean basin where they continue to grow in the surface waters. But some baby turtles are caught in current gyres which spin off from the main body of the Agulhas current and move closer to the coast. Onshore winds then contribute to pushing the hatchlings out of the current and onto the shore.

It is thanks to caring members of the public who rescued the hatchlings, helping give them a second chance at life. Loggerhead turtles cannot survive for long in cold waters as their metabolism becomes compromised and they weaken.

‘According to the latest international report on biodiversity, over a million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction,’ said Anne Kunz of SAAMBR.

‘Loggerhead turtles are already a vulnerable species, which means that despite some conservation successes locally, their worldwide numbers are declining.’

‘One Loggerhead turtle hatchling may not make a difference to the world turtle population figures, but each time we save one animal, we are giving it another chance to reach adulthood and reproduce,’ said uShaka Sea World Senior Aquarist, Malini Pather.

‘Who knows, perhaps one of these little turtles will, in the future, return to nest on a moonlit beach on KZN’s remote northern beaches.’