The Two Oceans Aquarium, the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation and Ardagh Glass Packaging – Africa (AGP – Africa, formerly Consol Glass) will celebrate World Turtle Day on 23 May 2022 with a pop-up exhibit activation in the Aquarium.
The exhibit, which will be open from Friday 20 May to Tuesday 24 May 2022, will highlight sea turtle facts and information about the threats facing these animals out at sea such as plastic pollution and ghost fishing gear.
The exhibit will also tell the story of the sea turtle rehabilitation work being done by the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, which is supported by AGP – Africa.
“We are excited to be able to extend our partnership with the Two Oceans Aquarium,” says Dale Carolin, Ardagh Glass Packaging – Africa’s Senior Group Executive, Marketing and Commercial. “We have experienced first-hand just how much work needs to be done to raise awareness around responsible packaging choices and the deadly effects of unmanaged waste, but we also know that we are likely to have more of an impact working with partners who are experienced in conservation.”
There will also be a focus on how to rescue stranded turtles, what visitors can do in their daily lives to protect sea turtles and how to ensure a healthy ocean. Everyone visiting the pop-up exhibit will have the opportunity to make a pledge about what they are going to do to save turtles, post it to social media and stand a chance of winning a behind-the-scenes tour. Visitors to the Aquarium will also be able to interact with some of the members of the Turtle team and enjoy the exhibit as part of their Aquarium visit, at no extra charge over and above the daily entrance ticket.
“Sea turtles are incredible ambassadors to communicate responsible use of plastic and waste management as well as sustainable fishing methods. The turtle stories are incredibly effective for inspiring conservation awareness and action. They bring stories of hope and show that humans can make a difference by caring enough to rescue stranded turtles, but more so by caring enough to be environmentally responsible. Our rehabilitation turtles have become legends as their stories of survival are very powerful,” says Talitha Noble, Conservation Manager for the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation.
In addition to sponsoring the sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and release programme, AGP – Africa has “adopted” two of the turtle hatchlings currently being rehabilitated. The public can visit AGP – Africa’s Facebook page to enter a competition to name the adopted turtles. The winners of the selected names will win tickets to the Two Oceans Aquarium.
The Aquarium and AGP – Africa encourage members of the public and other companies concerned about the environment to adopt a hatchling turtle. The adoption fee covers the cost of the turtle’s rehabilitation, which is in the region of R8 000 per turtle.
The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation turtle rehabilitation programme annually rehabilitates sea turtles that have ingested plastic, have been injured in some way or have become entangled in ghost fishing gear. The turtles are all found on Western Cape beaches and brought to the Aquarium by concerned members of the public, facilitated through an active and strong volunteer network.
After hatching on northern KwaZulu-Natal beaches, tiny loggerhead turtles make their way into the ocean and into the warm Agulhas current. Around Struisbaai on the south coast, the Agulhas current turns back on itself and deflects away from the continent. At this time of the year strong winds and rough seas push the little turtles onshore into the cold surrounding waters. The turtles quickly become hypothermic and dehydrated due to the cold water. The drop in their body temperature causes their bodily functions to slow down dramatically. Some of them are also injured. In this weak state they are unable to fight against the wind and waves and are ultimately expelled onto the beaches. It is here that the public and the turtle rehabilitation programme volunteers find them and take them to the Aquarium. “Standing season” – as this time of the year has become known – is an annual occurrence and takes place from March until June each year.
While in the ocean, the hatchlings feed on any potential food sources that they might find around them. Turtles mistake plastic as a food source, which can sometimes lead to their untimely deaths. When plastic enters the ocean, it doesn’t break down like biological materials. Plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces; to the point where plastic has even been found in plankton, the smallest of all living organisms in the food chain.
So far this year 142 rescued hatchlings have arrived at the Aquarium for rehabilitation. On average this season, each rescued turtle has expelled five pieces of plastic.
The Aquarium Foundation also rehabilitates sub-adults and adult turtles. These turtles tend to be found slightly later in the year than the hatchlings. The larger turtles tend mostly to get entangled in ghost fishing gear. Ghost gear is fishing equipment that is lost at sea, and continues to “fish”, killing whatever it entangles – including sea turtles, fish, dolphins, whales and sharks. Turtles found entangled in fishing gear and brought in for rehabilitation often have severe injuries and need specialised care and medication.
The Aquarium Foundation’s rehabilitation programme strives to rehabilitate and release every turtle that is brought to the facility. This process can take a couple of months to many years, and involves specialist medication, veterinary care, x-rays, food, etc. Once the turtles have been given a clean bill of health, they are released back into the ocean with some of the larger individuals being satellite tagged and tracked for as long as the tag is active to facilitate monitoring and research.
To find out more about the Aquarium Foundation’s turtle rehabilitation programme, explore the website here: https://aquariumfoundation.org.za/sea-turtle-rescue-rehabilitation-and-release/
To learn more about the Two Oceans Aquarium and how to visit the Aquarium, please have a look here: https://www.aquarium.co.za/