Young Hawksbill Turtle to return to the ocean soon thanks to rehabilitation at uShaka Sea World

This young Hawksbill Turtle was found dehydrated, and covered in algae and small marine animals.

With an 87% success rate in turtle rehabilitation, uShaka Sea World staff are confident their most recent patient will soon be well enough to return to the ocean.

On Thursday 21st July a young Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) from Tenikwa Wildlife and Rehabilitation Centre near Plettenberg Bay in the Eastern Cape was flown up to Durban for treatment at uShaka Sea World rehabilitation facility.

On arrival she was weighed, measured and examined by veterinarian, Dr Caryl Knox and the rehabilitation team. It was heart breaking to watch her, as besides being underweight she was so exhausted she could hardly lift her head during the examination.

The initial examination found her to be dehydrated, and covered in algae and small marine animals. Based on her weight and size she is likely to be about 4 years old. We are still unsure of her sex. Although the team are sure that she must be a female as she is beautiful and calm.

The Animal Health staff seen here treating the young Hawksbill Turtle. From left to right: Matt Myhill, Malini Pather and Marle Benade.

Upon arrival at uShaka Sea World, antibiotics and fluids were administered and she was placed in a shallow bath of freshwater. The heated freshwater helped with rehydration and the removal of most of the marine fauna on her shell and skin.

The day after her arrival, animal care staff cleaned and disinfected her carapace with a diluted betadine solution. Once the barnacles were removed, they were able to examine her carapace more closely. Lesions were noted on the hind flipper and deeper lesions were noted in the under shell.

Her lesions were cleaned and packed with honey, which is a natural antibiotic. Radiographs were taken to determine whether there were foreign objects in her stomach or other irregularities and these showed a possible blockage that needs further investigation.

Hawksbill’s natural range is in temperate waters and they do not thrive in the cold waters off the Cape coast. It is presumed she landed on the Plettenberg Bay beach in shock from the icy water.

The Hawksbill turtle is classified as critically endangered. This turtle species divides its time between the open ocean and  shallow lagoons and coral reefs feeding on sponges, crustaceans, algae, and fish.

We hope that with the hard work of her dedicated team of care givers, she will soon be strong enough to return to the ocean.

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