NewsRescue Effort Underway After Storm Washes Hundreds Of Baby Sea Turtles Ashore

Rescue Effort Underway After Storm Washes Hundreds Of Baby Sea Turtles Ashore

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — An aquarium in South Africa is stretched beyond capacity after more than 500 baby sea turtles were washed up on beaches by a rare and powerful storm and rescued by members of the public.

The little turtles are mostly endangered loggerheads and should be cruising the ocean. Most of them instead will spend the first few months of their lives in newly built plastic tanks at the Turtle Conservation Center at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. The aquarium is rehabilitating around 400 of the roughly 530 sick and injured turtles that were brought in, while sending the rest to two other aquariums to spread the load.

Baby turtles have to fend for themselves from the moment they hatch on beaches and make their way to the ocean.

In South Africa, loggerheads hatch on the northeast coast on the far side of the country from Cape Town. These turtles were likely sucked in by the warm Indian Ocean Agulhas Current, carried around the tip of South Africa and spat out in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Town.

That’s fairly common, said Talitha Noble-Trull, the head of the Turtle Conservation Center. She’s in charge of treating the new arrivals.

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, is stretched beyond capacity after more than 500 baby sea turtles were washed onto beaches by a rare and powerful storm and rescued by members of the public.The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, is stretched beyond capacity after more than 500 baby sea turtles were washed onto beaches by a rare and powerful storm and rescued by members of the public.

via Associated Press

What isn’t normal is the powerful storm that recently hit the Cape Town area, leaving hundreds of baby turtles needing help.

The conservation center usually receives a few to maybe 100 stranded young turtles in the three to four months after hatching season. It has a normal capacity of 150 turtles.

“What we haven’t seen before is over 500 turtles in two weeks, which is what the last little bit of time has brought us,” Noble-Trull said. “My budgeting plans for the year have really gone out the window.”

She estimated that each turtle will cost $500 to get back to full strength before being released into the warmer Indian Ocean in a few months. The Turtle Conservation Center has brought in a small army of volunteers to help the aquarium’s full-time staff care for them.

The turtles are ranked according to how sick they are, with some needing intensive care due to injuries, malnutrition or infection. A number is written on each shell to identify them.

While the storm was a major shock to the turtles, who are vulnerable to extreme weather and climate change, it has given Noble-Trull and other conservationists a valuable insight into another increasingly common danger.

Many of the turtles had ingested small pieces of plastic, which exited their systems after they arrived at the aquarium. Noble-Trull has a tray of plastic pieces collected in just one day,

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