Aquarium Overwhelmed by Hundreds of Baby Sea Turtles

Sea turtle hatchlings got caught up in a storm off South Africa, leaving them sick and injured
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 1, 2024 4:24 PM CDT
Aquarium Adorably Swamped by 500 Needy Baby Turtles
A turtle hatchling at the Turtle Conservation Centre at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, April 23, 2024.   (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

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, per the AP. 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. 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," 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. Staff are also collecting data on plastic pollution. Noble-Trull said many of the turtles had ingested small pieces of plastic, some as big as a fingernail. (More sea turtles stories.)

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