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13 peaks, 13 turtles
By:
Talitha Noble
Talitha is our Conservation Coordinator. She manages our turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme. Because of Talitha and her team, all of our turtle patients are well looked after and have a second chance at life.
Karoline Hanks is a passionate anti-SUP campaigner, and has been spear-heading a campaign against the use of plastic water sachets in road running in South Africa for over five years (#ICarryMyOwn). She is a competitive ultra-distance trail runner, and this year won the Addo 76k and the Cederberg 100k. She also held the 13P one-day badge women’s record for a few months! Karoline started a small business three years ago (called SUPA) making single-use plastic alternative products, which has grown from strength to strength. More recently, her work has been focused on various waste management projects at the community level in Noordhoek, under the Project Noordhoeked banner.

Karoline will be tackling the 13 Peaks challenge in December, and has decided to dedicate her effort to our turtle rehabilitation programme. She aims to complete all 13 Peaks in under 21 hours, making it a truly impressive achievement. Her fundraising target for us is R60 000, which would cover the rehabilitation costs of 13 turtle hatchlings.

To honour the magnificent 13 peaks that Karoline will be tackling, we will highlight 13 special little turtles that have come through our doors this year.

If you would like to support Karoline with her fundraiser, visit her GivenGain fundraising page.

Signal Hill

Signal Hill marks both the beginning and end of the 13 peaks challenge. It represents the athlete at their strongest and at their weakest, and rewards them for literally having come full circle. In 2020, we had a hatchling leatherback turtle (#6) that also had a full circle experience with us, only this little chap started his journey at his weakest and ended it at his strongest. The little leatherback arrived from Struisbaai, 1 March. An exciting addition to our rehab as leatherback hatchlings are not common. These are tricky turtles to help as they like to bump into things and are fussy eaters, but we gave him a big space to swim in and quickly got him eating yummy bluebottles and moon jellies. It only took a few days for him to start gaining weight (he arrived at 94g) and for his little wounds and scabs on his flippers to start healing. Leatherback rehab strategy is to release them as soon as they are looking good, because they start to struggle if you keep them for longer. So, 12 March 2020, we sent him off to be released 20 nautical miles off Hout Bay, feeling much better after a two-week turtle hospital pitstop. Whilst his time with us was shorter than our other turtles, his rehab was memorable. Leatherback’s are the exception to most turtle rules and are some of the most rare and incredible creatures anyone could get to work with. What a treat to have had 12 magical days with a hatchling leatherback!

Lion’s Head

Hatchling #22 arrived on 18 March, after he was rescued by the NSRI in Struisbaai. He weighed 48g upon arrival. #22 was quick to learn the ropes of our turtle hospital, understanding that food came twice a day and that it was most fun to dive to the bottom of the tank to get it! And so, two days later when tiny forlorn little #26 arrived, #22 decided to adopt him and become his big brother. In tanks alongside each other with clear dividers he showed the new kid how to dive, how to take big bites and reminded him to never bite the tweezers, only the food! He would encourage his little brother to exercise his flippers and when the wind was howling, would distract him by biting his bubbles. This would make #26 giggle. For the last eight months, #22 has been the Lions Head to the Klein Leeukoppie that is #26. And they have made a pact to look out for each other in the ocean once released. Having a purpose and a little fella to look out for has been one of the highlights of Big Lions time in turtle rehab.

#22, now called Bonnie, has been adopted by plastic alternative company Bonnie Bio. Thank you! Their donation covers the rehabilitation costs of this little hatchling.

Maclear’s Beacon

Maclear’s Beacon is one of the toughest peaks, with 1000m of elevation in the form of a summitting staircase. It demands persistence and stamina when there is none left. Turtle #5 has unfortunately had a similarly tough rehab experience. Arriving from Struisbaai on 1 March, this little gal weighed in at 44g and was exceptionally strong. For the first few months she ate, she dived, she grew and she thrived. Things were looking good. But then she developed what we later realised was metabolic bone disease. Whilst strong, her immune system was still compromised, and the bone disease was able to take hold. Her skin started flaking off, her shell got soft, she stopped being able to dive and she developed granulomas in her mouth. Intensive treatment started for #5 with specialised food, medical treatments and her own ICU tank in the turtle hospital. Even though she continued like a champion her condition worsened and our treatment became more intensive. #5 spent over 3 months in ICU. In the last few weeks we have really seen her improve with a hardening shell and a regained ability to dive. Both our rehab team and #5’s body demanded a lot from her to help her get better, and she rose to the challenge. She gave us persistence and stamina when she had little left, and like the champion of Maclear’s Beacon can stand tall and proud at the summit, #5 can breath a sigh of relief knowing that she has championed her own rehabilitation journey.

 

#5 has been adopted by Don Hunter, a long-time supporter of our turtle conservation programme, who has donated the full rehabilitation cost of R5000. #5 is now called Donatello.

Grootkop

Grootkop is a remarkably botanical summit, with overgrown dense bushes and shrubbery all around. Turtles too are vehicles for all sorts of organisms and plants in the ocean, this is especially true when they are floating on the surface for longer periods of time (something that occurs a lot before a turtle strands due to fatigue and weakness). We see many different types of marine creatures accompanying our turtles when they arrive in our rehab. This was particularly true for little #28 who arrived weighing 40g, with a load of goose barnacles on the back of its carapace. She was subsequently, and lovingly, nicknamed “Goosebutt”. Little Goosebutt arrived on 23 March from Sedgefield and was rescued with the help of SanParks Wilderness. These species of barnacles are nasty creatures, capable of digging deeply into the shell of the turtle if given enough time. Thankfully, we were able to remove the barnacles before they had done any damage. Little #28 has had a smooth rehab process, currently weighs 650g and is excited to be released so that it can outswim any sneaky goose barnacles in the ocean!

Judas’ Peak

No one journey is like any other, each rehabilitation process has its own path filled with detours, climbs and descents. Some journeys however are a straighter line than others are. The rehab of turtle #16 mirrors the passage that leads to the summit of Judas Peak – a single track with a direct ascent. #16 was brought into turtle rehab by a member of the public on 3 March, after having washed up on the beach in Struisbaai. He arrived strong, with no injuries, weighing 54g and started eating and diving within a day. #16 has been ahead on the leader board in the weight category since his arrival and smashed the 1kg mark on 26 October, despite some tough competition. This big chap is rearing to go – he wants to mission far and wide in the deep blue sea! He is using these last weeks of rehab to really get those gains, pack on as many grams as he can (current weight: 1,1kg) and mentally prepare to charge forth into the yonder! Go get ’em!

 

Thank you to Isibindi Foundation for fully adopting Thonga. 

Klein Leeukoppie

Tiny #26 arrived at the aquarium weighing only 22g. He was found in Sedgefield, by some ocean loving people associated with the Strandloper project, on 20 March. #26 was overwhelmed when he arrived at the turtle rehab. Exhausted, covered in sand and a bit scared of the bigger turtles he could see in the other tanks. Little #26 hid in the corner, grateful to be able to drink, get warm and take a nap. When he awoke #26 got a fright because big googly turtle eyes were staring at him through the tank divider. #22, Big Lion, told him not to worry, that it was safe here and that he would show him how to thrive in this space. Filled with relief, #26 did everything Big Lion told him to do. He practiced his diving, waited patiently for his food twice a day, and swam laps all around the tank. #26 was grateful to have such a caring big brother and really liked being Little Leeukoppie to Big Lion. Even though #26 now weighs a hefty 390g, he is still feeling apprehensive about going back to the sea. But its ok, because he and Big Lion made a pact to look out for each other after release and that means everything is going to be ok.

 

#26, now called Bio, has been adopted by plastic alternatives company Bonnie Bio. Thank you! Their donation covers the rehabilitation costs of this little hatchling.

Suther Peak

Suther peak has a spectacular view of Llandadno, across towards Chapmans Peak and down towards Hout Bay, a well-known, not so little, fishing village. Fishermen spend a good deal of time along stretches of coastline where turtles strand. One such fisherman went down to the sea in Vleesbaai on 1 March, after a strong onshore wind, to hopefully get a good catch. Instead, he found a little loggerhead turtle! It was very skinny and had some lesions on his eye, but “Klippies” was very much alive and kicking. Upon arrival, #8 weighed 38g and settled in nicely, immediately loving the taste of fatty pilchard and hake. #8 has had some detours on his rehab journey, struggling with metabolic bone disease and needing intensive care. But he has recovered incredibly well and currently weighs 940g! Klippies can’t wait for the day when he can fish for his own food again, like his own rescuer does!

Chapman’s Peak

The 8th summit in the 13 peak challenge, Chapman’s Peak, is most famous for its beautiful drive, a road forged out of the coastal cliff-face. ‘Forged from rock’ is a term that could be used to describe every turtle that ever existed. These creatures need to overcome so many natural and man-made obstacles to make it to maturity. This was very much the case for #9. Stranded in Arniston on 1 March, this little turtle was found by two young sisters who live in Hermanus with their family and were excited to become Turtle Rescue Hero’s! When this little 43g turtle arrived in our rehab he was beaten up with barnacles on his back and wounds on his flippers. We noticed that his shell though was incredibly hard (hatchling turtles have mostly got soft shells which hardens as they grow, this adds to their vulnerability in the wild) and textured – not unlike the Cape Granite rock that forms the base of Chapman’s Peak. After two months of rehabilitation, and slowly getting stronger, #9 passed a long fibrous piece of white plastic, half the length of his own body (the plastic was 3cm long!). Little #9 is doing really well, strong, weighing 990g, his shell hard – he is forged from rock. Unfortunately, he needs to be if he is going to survive in the wild. Despite our help, once released he is going to need to traverse many dangers in the ocean, one of the most dangerous being plastic.

Noordhoek Peak

For athletes attempting 13 peaks in the shortest time frame, Noordhoek peak is most likely the last peak of the first day. It is where one can join dog walkers, horse riders, surfers and picnickers to watch the sunset. It immediately makes me think of hatchling #23 who has a sunbeam on her beak. Whilst loggerhead hatchlings share a lot of similarities, there are distinct differences amongst individuals when it comes to colouration and pattern on their shells, flippers and heads. Turtle #23 stands out as a sunbeam turtle, shedding light to all privileged enough to get to see her little dinosaur sunbeam face! #23 arrived from Struisbaai on 18 March, weighing 29g and quickly adjusted to life in our rehab. After six weeks we found three nasty bits of plastic in her poo, including polystyrene, a nurdle and a sharp, hard piece of blue plastic. Despite these painful man-made obstacles, little #23 shares light and love to all around. She reminds us that there is always hope and that even when the sun sets, there is a new sunrise not far behind it!

 

Thank you to Earth & Co for donating R5000 and covering the rehabilitation costs of #23, now known as Charly.

Muizenberg Peak

Muizenberg Peak overlooks a bay that is always abuzz with activity. Whether its surfers at the backline or tourists on Boyes Drive, eyes are always on the sea. This is one of the reasons why we generally get many turtle rescues from Muizenberg. This year however, only one little hatchling came from this bay around the corner, and with quite a specific purpose. Turtle #33 wants to be a shark scientist when she grows up. She has always been fascinated by these cool slick creatures that she sometimes sees. Special note: #33 has only seen two sharks. A ragged-tooth juvenile up in East London and a bronze whaler as she entered False Bay). Little 33 has heard that False Bay is a hot spot for shark research, with Shark Spotters and the Save Our Seas Shark Centre doing so much cool work. Unfortunately, she got stuck in some strong onshore winds and took a few tumbles that left her stranded on the beach and not feeling so good. She has therefore had to take a detour from her scientific adventures and spend some time in turtle rehab. Upon arrival #33 weighed 60g and didn’t have many injuries. She perked up quickly when she heard that the Aquarium too has sharks! Raggies, gulleys, catsharks and quite a few species of shyshark. #33 currently weighs 216g and is so excited to head back to the ocean. She thinks she may head back up the east coast to find some whale sharks!

#33, now called George, haas been adopted by Gita Carroll and Lynton Burger. Thank you!

Constantiaberg

Turtle #29 is living her best life, a life I imagine one could easily live on a Constantiaberg wine farm with a floppy sunhat, a crisp glass of Sav Blanc and a little bit of gossip. #29 had humble beginnings, arriving from Struisbaai on 2 April, weighing 43g. She brought with her some baggage, in the form of two worms, a goose barnacle and two volcano barnacles. It didn’t take long though for this little lady to realise that life in rehab could be well compared with life in a 24hr spa hotel! She longs for Tuesdays when she gets gentle back scrubs, and Thursdays when she gets her facial and skin treatments. Meals are generally delicious, though she took some time to shift from her pescatarian tendencies to her supplemented gel food. Now that she sees that sparkly glow in her shell, and feels all this extra energy, she’s been won over and is busy discussing becoming a brand ambassador with the head of the rehab. #29 isn’t as keen as the others to head back to the ocean. This has been such a good sabbatical from the stress of the surviving in the high seas (there is never any time to moisturise!) and #29 thinks she deserves to stay just a little bit longer. She could become an influencer perhaps?

 

Thank you to Nichole Soboil and her godson Daniel Bunkell for a partial adoption fee if R1800. Daniel has decided to call #29 Tap-Tap! You can co-parent #29 and give Tap-Tap a turtally awesome surname.

Klaasenkop

Klaasenkop is the 12th peak in the 13 peak challenge, and it therefore seems to make sense to talk about the 12th turtle that arrived in rehab this year. Turtle #12 washed up in Struisbaai on 3 March, after strong onshore winds. He was rescued by Antoinette, a local who lives on the beach and walks it daily. She has helped with the rescue of three turtles this season – she is a turtle champion! When little #12 arrived he weighed 42g and had a ‘kop’ covered in giant goose barnacles. Once removed, this little chap started to heal well, and quickly. #12 was a big fan of the Mannequin challenge back in the day and likes to relive those memories when he is taken out of the tank, striking a pose and keeping it for the duration of his time out of the water. Many of his poses have been inspired by Michelangelo’s David, and Rodin’s The Thinker. Whilst in rehab, #12 has tried very hard to get the other hatchlings to join him in a proper Mannequin challenge, but getting 34 other turtles to co-operate is harder than herding catfish, apparently. #12 now weighs exactly 1kg and while he has given up on the dream of making a joint Mannequin video with the other turtles that may go viral, he hasn’t given up on the dream of swimming free. Perhaps he can go find some other marine creatures who will help him out?

#12, now called Kevin Landi, is the lucky adoptee of Just a Small Piece and Landi du Toit. Thank you! Follow Just a Small Piece on Instagram (@justasmallpiece).  

Devil’s Peak

Devil’s Peak is the final peak in this massive challenge, with a long journey to get to it from the previous peak of Klaasenkop. #35 is the last hatchling turtle we have received this season and his journey has been a long one too. Only arriving in our rehab on the 1 November means this turtle spent most of this year making his way down the coast in the strong current. Rescued in Gaansbaai, #35 was brought to the Aquarium by a former employee of the company weighing in at 533g. What makes his survival remarkable is that #35 has incredible asymmetry across his body. This means that the right side of his body is always out of the water whilst the left side is underwater. The severity of this left his head and left flipper tense and stiffened to one side. Even though this is the 13th peak, it isn’t the end of the journey. A descent off the mountain and run on Tafelberg road to Signal Hill is required for completion. In the same way, #35 has a long journey ahead. He is looking strong and doing remarkably well considering his condition, but he is going to need physiotherapy, counter weighting and continuous treatment in order to heal. As a rehab team we are committed to little #35, ready to do whatever is needed to help him be at ease and get better, and we fully believe that he will!

#35, now called Kai, has been partially adopted by Mike de Maine, and his son Kai. Thank you!

All of our hatchlings wish Karoline the best of luck in completing the 13 Peaks challenge, hopefully in the time she is aiming for. Please consider making a donation to Karoline’s fundraiser, so that we can continue treating these amazing little champions, and eventually release them back into the ocean.

Donate here!

 

18 November 2020

Training Bob to be release-ready

Training Bob to be release-ready

Bob, a green turtle in our care, has been with us since November 2014. While he is not ready for release yet, we are preparing him so that he has the best chance of survival back in the big blue. Alex Panagiotou, one of our turtle team specialists, is working with Bob through enrichment programmes and research.

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