Flow Communications

It was the turtle that did it. It looked so small and defenceless with its shell all covered in algae and goose barnacles, plus our years of work with Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium have taught us that sea turtles are in trouble.

So, a small group of Flowstars have adopted Hatchling #70, and called it Flowtle.

Loggerhead turtle
Flowtle, a loggerhead hatchling adopted by a group of Flowstars. (Image: Two Oceans Aquarium)

This little loggerhead is a representative of an ancient turtle species that is now listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered. This means Flowtle and friends face a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Every year, the Two Oceans Aquarium receives stranded turtle hatchlings that members of the public rescue on South Africa’s beaches.

Loggerheads and leatherbacks, two of the seven turtle species found worldwide, lay their eggs along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline between October and February. About two months later, hatchlings scrabble out of the sand and run the gauntlet of seabirds and crabs to get to the warm Indian Ocean and attempt to start what can be long, wandering lives.

Some of these tiny creatures are washed up on the shore, often weak and unable to get back into the sea. Flowtle was just one of 155 hatchlings rescued this year – four leatherbacks and 151 loggerheads. According to the IUCN, leatherback and loggerhead turtle populations have declined by 40% over just three generations.

Plastic in the ocean
Plastic pollution is a major challenge across oceans and seas worldwide. (Image: Naja Bertolt Jensen (Unsplash))

“This season’s hatchlings have shared with us the reality of the plastic pollution curse our marine wildlife is facing, as we see the effects of plastic first-hand in our turtle rehabilitation,“ says Martine Viljoen, the aquarium’s sea turtle aquarist.

The organisation has recorded more than 490 pieces of plastic collected from 80 hatchlings this year, either excreted or on post-mortem investigation, she says. Flowtle was among them.

“These hatchlings highlight the need for us to tackle our plastic pollution problem together, through making responsible choices on our use of single-use plastics on land that can help lead to an ocean of change, creating a less polluted environment for our marine life.”

On average, it costs the aquarium more than R6 000 to rehabilitate a single stranded hatchling, says Viljoen.

“We are super thankful for the support we have received through hatchling adoptions during 2022 thus far. Of the 70 hatchlings in our care, we have had an incredible 42 loggerhead hatchlings successfully adopted, with 28 still awaiting their own incredible humans to adopt them.”

When you adopt a hatchling, you get to give it a name, and receive a certificate confirming its adoption and personalised monthly updates until the day of its release back into the wild.

turtle hatchlings
Turtle hatchlings making their way to the ocean. (Image: Josué Soto (Unsplash))

Turtles have been around since the time of dinosaurs, but these days they face several challenges to their continued existence. They can die when they are caught up in the nets and lines that are used in commercial fishing; commercial fishing and coastal development disrupt their food supply and habitat; they can become very sick, or die, from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic and other pollution; they are captured and traded, as pets or food; and climate change is affecting them in many ways, from changes in habitat and food supply to their sex ratios – warmer conditions mean more male turtles.

Flow has been working with the Two Oceans Aquarium for more than 10 years, and is currently refreshing the aquarium’s website, as it did in 2015. We have also created an online ticketing system for the attraction and conservation organisation.

We are also very proud of our involvement in launching the first Marine Protected Areas Day on 1 August 2021 and in the communications for this year’s MPA Day.

South Africa has 42 of these nature reserves of the ocean and sea shores, which research shows have an enormous positive impact on marine life, and also on the surrounding communities through the replenishment of fish stocks.

MPA Day Twiter
(Image: MPA Day)

The Two Oceans Aquarium recently released Donatello, a loggerhead that was rescued in 2020 and needed unusually long rehabilitative care, says Viljoen.

“Donny is a clear example to us that there aren’t always ‘average’ turtles and that each turtle requires its own individualised specialised care. Donny has been part of a collaborative release of three juvenile loggerhead turtles (Donny, Caddy and Pan) all rescued in 2019 and 2020, and all presenting with their own various health challenges.

“Recently, they were all cleared for release, fitted with satellite tags and released at three different sites along the South African coastline, so that their post-rehabilitation and release movements can be compared.” (Donny, Caddy and Pan can be followed here.)

To adopt your own hatchling, visit https://www.aquarium.co.za/blog/entry/adopt-a-turtle-hatchling.

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