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12 Jan 2023

Green turtle found in Scottburgh returns to ocean home

Vanisha Moodley (South Coast Herald) Picture: SAAMBR. On her release, Aurora, the green turtle was fitted with a satellite transmitter to monitor her movements.

Aurora, the green turtle has had quite an adventure after being found rolling in the surf in Scottburgh in August last year, and taken to the Sea Turtle Hospital.

“She was positively buoyant which is common in stranded sea turtles,” said Ann Kunz from the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr).

“However, Aurora was also hosting a multitude of parasites.”

Part of the arrival protocol of new turtle patients is a freshwater bath to rid them of marine specific parasites. According to SAAMBR, sea turtles carry many ectoparasites in the wild and it only becomes a serious problem after they are compromised.

Aurora not only had a terrible infestation of leeches, she also carried many egg cases and it took weeks to completely get rid of all her ‘baggage’. Unfortunately, the parasites caused Aurora’s red blood cell count to drop, but with ongoing care and thanks to her great appetite, she recovered quickly.

“After a few weeks of TLC, her buoyancy issues self-corrected and by November her clinical examination indicated no presence of parasites and a very good body condition, she was thus ready to return to her ocean home,” added Kunz.

The turtle was fitted with a satellite transmitter as part of a project to compare her post-rehabilitation movements and spatial ecology with that of another green turtle, Maia. Maia has only three flippers after one of her front flippers was amputated due to plastic entanglement. Both these turtles were released on December 8 in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park. This is a protected area and also makes for the perfect habitat for sea turtles.

After her release, Aurora moved south exploring the areas past Mission Rocks and St Lucia before she decided to make a u-turn, 50 km south of Cape Vidal, on Christmas. The first week of the new year she spent travelling between Sodwana Bay and Mabibi.

“Aurora has covered more than 750 km during the last four weeks making the most of her ‘coastal summer holiday’.

Maia, who is similar in size, decided to travel to Maputo Bay, a few kilometres more than Aurora. Kunz added that both turtles have already shown that in just one month post release, sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation makes a difference, and that a flipper amputation does not hold a turtle back from thriving back in the wild.

Thanks to members of the public, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the KZN Marine Stranding Network and the turtle rehabilitation team at SAAMBR’s Sea Turtle Hospital at uShaka Sea World for the rescue and release of Aurora, whose name means ‘dawn’ in Latin.

Kunz also stated that all sea turtles are endangered and working towards the conservation of these species is important.

”Both these turtles were given a second chance of life back in the ocean and they are definitely making the most of it.”
The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment is hosting the satellite transmissions on their ARGOS registered platform.