Four hatchlings have already been found on beaches from St Francis Bay to Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth.
Only two out of every 1 000 hatchlings survive into adulthood. With an already compromised survival rate, the hatchlings – merely a few weeks old – will not survive if not handled correctly.
Bayworld oceanarium curator for marine fish husbandry, turtle rehabilitation, health and collections, Ruth Wright, said yesterday although loggerhead and leatherback turtles nested on the northern beaches of KwaZulu-Natal between October and March, their hatchlings sometimes ended up on beaches further down the coast.
Storms, strong winds and sea currents between March and June can sometimes sweep hatchlings into colder water, where they get “cold-stunned” and become severely hypothermic.
“These turtle hatchlings then wash up along the beaches from Cape Town to East London,” Wright said.
So far this season, four hatchlings about one month old have been found by residents from St Francis Bay to Pollok Beach.
Wright said it was a perfectly natural phenomenon for the hatchlings to wash up on our shores.
Female turtles lay hundreds of eggs, which hatch after about 60 days.
The newly hatched turtles swim and feed in the warm waters of the Agulhas current and the Indian Ocean, but sometimes get caught up in a cold current and get taken further down the coast.
Wright has asked the public to be vigilant and, should they come across a hatchling, to not put it back in the water.
“They are coming out because the water is too cold,” she said.
The turtle should be placed in a small container like an ice-cream tub with a small amount of wet sand and taken to a turtle rehabilitation centre as soon as possible to be treated.
Once at a rehabilitation centre, the hatchlings would be thoroughly checked before being placed in warmer water and fed, Wright said.
“Once they are strong enough and are able to dive properly they will be returned to the ocean,” Wright said.
Should you come across a turtle hatchling contact one of the following:
- Bayworld: (041) 584-0650, or the stranding hotline on 071-724-2122.
- East London Aquarium: (043) 7052637.
- Mossel Bay Aquarium: (044) 6919066.
- Tenikwa Wildlife Centre: (044) 5348170