Cape Town - The Two Oceans Aquarium rehabilitated 53 juvenile loggerhead sea turtles, two green turtles and two hawksbill turtles into the ocean off Cape Point.
"Each one we are able to put back into the ocean is one more added to the population, “ says Kevin Spiby, the aquarist in charge of the turtle rehabilitation programme at the aquarium.
The release took place around the 300m contour, 30 nautical sea miles offshore in 21 degrees Celsius water.
One of the young hawksbills was fitted with a satellite tag (with a two-year battery life), which will transmit data every time the turtle surfaces for air.
Sea turtles do not normally live in the cold oceans surrounding Cape Town, the Two Oceans Aquarium was able to release the turtles at Cape Point due to the fact that at certain times – the Agulhas Current pushes closer inshore.
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The happy turtles were released within the warmer water range and will use the magnetic navigation to determine their path back to their natural habitat says Two Oceans Aquarium.
The turtles were found stranded along Western Cape beaches in the past year and a half – were brought to the Aquarium and rehabilitated.
One of the turtles, a hawksbill rescued off the rocks at Yzerfontein on 8 June 2014 by fisherman Koos Otto, was brought to the Aquarium by the NSRI. Otto, named after her hero was found dehydrated and suffering from hypothermia, sunburn and with severe lesions.
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Young Otto recovered well during rehabilitation and even gained 10 kilograms during her stay.
Hawksbill turtles are usually found in tropical waters with populations in both east and west of African waters.
The little loggerhead turtles released, formed part of a group of 215 juveniles that had washed up on Western Cape beaches between March and May this year.
Over 150 of these are believed to have come from the Cape Agulhas region and were dropped at the NSRI station in Struisbaai - where the NSRI staff looked after them until the Aquarium took over.
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Two Oceans explains the turtles would have hatched on KwaZulu-Natal beaches between December 2014 and February 2015. The turtles all underwent veterinary care, x-rays and hand-feeding. When they arrived at the Aquarium, their weight was 66g and when they were released weighed 668g.
The release of the rehabilitated turtles is ongoing and 74 of the rehabilitated hatchlings have also been sent to uShaka Sea World for release in May.
Hatchlings spend the first three to five years of their lives drifting in the Agulhas Current, however, little is known about their behaviour during this period.
READ: Public asked to keep eye out for turtles stranded on Cape beaches
Each year from April until the end of winter, the Two Oceans Aquarium asks the public to look out for hatchling loggerhead sea turtles that wild seas wash up on Eastern Cape and Western Cape beaches.
The intensive rehabilitating of the turtles takes months – during which the Aquarium carries all costs of the medication, food, external veterinary requirements and extra staff.
To see our gallery of turtle bliss click here PICS: Blissful freedom as Two Oceans Aquarium releases rehabilitates turtles
The Two Oceans Aquarium team