‘Tis the season: What to do if

Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

‘Tis the season: What to do if you find a stranded sea turtle in SA

Did you know that most stranded sea turtles are found by beachgoers? Find out how you can help save them over here:

‘Tis the season: What to do if

Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

Martine Viljoen from the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town recently shared some helpful advice for when people come across sea turtle hatchlings on a beach.

It is said that as the winter months approach the incidence of turtle strandings increases. Juvenile turtles (mainly loggerheads) are swept down from the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal (where they hatch) in the mighty Agulhas Current and are washed ashore by stormy seas. They are often in a weak condition, having been exposed to cold water and are suffering from dehydration.

The Two Oceans Aquarium rehabilitates these turtles in preparation for their release back into the warm ocean. The turtles range in size from 20g up to 80kg. Rehabilitation can last more than a year, depending on the needs of each individual, as some are not only suffering from hypothermia but are also injured and require treatment. March ultimately marks the beginning of the Two Oceans Aquarium’s turtle stranding season.

The stranding season

“The first hatchling of the stranding season is something we always anxiously anticipate and work hard to be prepared for,” Martine wrote in an Instagram post. “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.”

She says that she realised once more why the aquarium’s rehab programme exists. And it isn’t pretty.

On 2 March they received a turtle who only weighed 31g and who sadly passed away overnight.

“Inside his stomach and gut, the turtle had 21 pieces of hard plastic and two pieces of soft plastic, the biggest of these measuring 12mm long and 3mm wide (like a coin for size reference). Yes, cold shock and dehydration were the reason he stranded but a big contributor to his death was the microplastic that the turtle had consumed.”

She explains that turtles are messengers of the sea and indicators of the ocean’s health. 

“This turtle and so many turtles before it are telling us, loud and clear, that our oceans are not healthy and 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.”

Therefore, if you would like to show your support for our season of upcoming hatchlings, you might consider making a small recurring donation to their #AquariumFoundation by visiting this link.

“These recurring donations help the team ensure the biggest impact possible can be made with the work we are doing for our turtles!”


How to help a turtle hatchling

If you come across hatchlings along the beach, make sure you follow the right steps to ensure that you don’t endanger them.

“You should never put them back in the water, but rather place them in a dry container, on a soft piece of fabric. This container needs to have holes for air and they need to be kept at room temperature, in order for them to warm up slowly.” Says SANParks ranger, Clive Martin according to Good Things Guy.

He also advises you to reach out to the Two Oceans Aquarium, or your nearest turtle rescue programme, and explain where you found the turtle and arrange to drop off your rescued hatchlings with them.

Photo: aquarium.co.za/