Stranded turtles flown back to the warm Indian Ocean
More than a dozen little loggerhead turtles arrived safely at Durban's King Shaka Airport on 30 August 2012 from the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.
uShaka Sea World aquarist Riaan Boshoff waited anxiously outside the cargo terminal to receive the 14 turtles, and transport them to uShaka Sea World’s quarantine centre.
Sometimes young loggerhead turtles find themselves in trouble as they battle adverse sea conditions and end up in the Cape's cold waters, where they are unable to survive the icy temperatures. All of the turtles were found by members of the public between Strandfontein and Bloubergstrand between April and August this year. Weighing between 95g and 485g, they are estimated to be between 6 and 18 months old.
Loggerhead turtles spend the first few years of their lives floating in the ocean where temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius. Here they feed on small jellyfish, by-the-wind sailors (a tiny relative of the jellyfish), bluebottles and other small creatures found on the ocean’s surface.
Almost immediately after being removed from their padded transport containers and placed in their new home, it became evident that the turtles were all in good health thanks to the care they had received at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
uShaka Sea World staff spent time observing their swimming, breathing and diving patterns, and were pleased to declare them all fit on arrival.
The turtles will be fed on squid, fish fillets, greens and vitamins until our resident veterinarian pronounces them ready for release back into the warm Indian Ocean.
Although the smaller turtles might have to wait another year or two until they are stronger and stand a better chance of survival, the bigger, stronger loggerheads will resume their life in the open sea before the end of 2012.
South Africa is home to the world’s longest-running research and conservation project on endangered loggerhead turtles.
Nesting female loggerheads have been protected for close to 40 years. Today around 500 animals return annually to their birth site to repeat the nesting process and ensure the survival of successive generations.
Local loggerhead turtles nest exclusively on the beaches of St Lucia and Maputaland, which fall within protected marine reserves.
Tagging of these turtles indicates that females migrate over distances of up to 3 500km in a single direction to return to the exact spot where they were born, to lay their eggs.
Nesting takes place between October and February, when an average of 116 eggs per clutch are laid above the high-water mark in a hole dug in the beach sand. Although an average of four clutches are laid per season, the survival rate of the tiny hatchlings is poor, with only two per thousand reaching maturity.
While eggs fall prey to monitor lizards, jackals, crabs and gulls, adults die when they become trapped in fishing nets.
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