Tiny turtles back on course
WHEN an angler found a tiny leatherback hatchling on Ansteys Beach and brought it into uShaka Sea World’s rehabilitation centre recently, scientists considered it most unusual.
Leatherback turtle hatchlings have rarely been found washed up on southern KZN beaches. Later, it was an even bigger surprise when 21-year-old student Asive Sidloyi arrived at uShaka Sea World with six tiny leatherback hatchlings in a bucket. He had seen hatchlings floundering on the beach at Ansteys and decided to try and help the little ones return to the ocean.
The curator of uShaka Sea World’s Aquarium, Simon Chater, was called to receive the precious cargo.
The moment he saw the tiny hatchlings, he realised that these healthy little turtles were not more than a day or so old.
“There is a strong possibility these turtles hatched on Ansteys, even though their natural nesting range is limited to the far northern beaches of KwaZulu-Natal. In the past 20 years, less than five cases of leatherback turtle nests have been recorded south of St Lucia,” Simon said.
He explained that turtle hatchlings naturally made their way towards light once they emerged from the sand. In rural areas, this light was reflected by the moon over the ocean and signalled the direction in which the hatchlings needed to move.
Unfortunately, these hatchlings at Ansteys Beach were probably confused by the urban lights and, instead of heading out to sea; they started their life’s journeys making their way up the beach.
Asive said that no matter how many times he put the turtles back in the surf they had kept on coming out again. That was when he decided to put them in a bucket and bring them to uShaka.
Thanks to Asive, these six young leatherback turtles and with their cousin who arrived the day before will be given a second chance. Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are classified as critically endangered and only one out of every 1 000 hatchling survives to adulthood, so the life of each little hatchling really does matter.
The good news is that uShaka Sea World staff have already released the baby turtles out in the Mozambique current where they belong.
For more info contact Ann Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternately 083 3924147