When adventurer Peter van Kets and his daughter Hannah spotted a green turtle in trouble and getting washed up on the rocks near their home at Sunrise-on-Sea, East London, they jumped into action to rescue it immediately.
Pete phoned our mutual friend and turtle hero Jacques Marais who put him in contact with our turtle rescue team. He also drove the very weak turtle straight to Dr. Peter Wood, legendary East London veterinarian.
Dr. Wood assisted with initial rehydration and gave Myrtle (Hannah named her) a good check-up, while arrangements were being made to take her to the East London Aquarium for care until she could be moved to Bayworld, Port Elizabeth, the closest turtle rehabilitation centre.
Myrtle the turtle, washed up on the rocks in East London, South Africa (Image credit: Peter van Kets)
“I lived in East London for five years and got to know some amazing ocean passionate people whom I knew would be able to assist us with getting Myrtle to PE”, said CEO, Maryke Musson, from the Aquarium Foundation.
“Darren Hanner, owner of Eco Tanks, has been a friend for years and supported us during the 2018 drought with a donation of about 10 water tanks, so I thought he might be able to give Myrtle a lift on one of his Eco Tanks delivery trucks, but Darren immediately offered to be the air ambulance and fly Myrtle to Port Elizabeth in his small aircraft”.
Peter and Hannah checked in on Myrtle under the fantastic care of the East London Aquarium team while transport logistics were being finalised, and on Sunday morning Myrtle took off on her rescue flight to be safely delivered to Ruth Wright of Bayworld PE. Young Kelsey Yelseth piloted the plane, with Darren as the safety pilot, and Kelsey’s mom Coral had the important role of ‘airborne’ turtle nurse.
They touched down in Port Elizabeth after a 90 minute flight, with Ruth waiting next to the landing strip to take over Myrtle’s care.
Helping animals in need always show us how much people still care, and yet again we were overwhelmed by the incredible support of getting this endangered sea turtle the best possible care as quickly as possible.
Myrtle is the fifth green turtle that washed up along our coast in the last two weeks. Mfusa, Harry and Roo are all recovering well at the Aquarium Foundation’s turtle hospital. Little Myrtle will stay at Bayworld PE for her recovery and she is luckily showing no serious external injuries, but will be assessed to rule out infections and possible plastic ingestion.
Kai, the loggerhead, with his namesake, who looked after him during the drive from Gansbaai (Image credit: Mike de Maine)
While Myrtle was being rescued in the Eastern Cape, a little loggerhead turtle was rescued in Gansbaai and after a night under the wonderful care of Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Xolani, was transported to the Aquarium Foundation by previous technical manager of the Aquarium, Mike de Maine and his family.
“With each turtle rescue we celebrate the power of collaboration. We somehow always find willing and caring people to get these compromised animals to the right care as quickly as possible. Myrtle and Kai (named after Mike de Maine’s son who looked after the turtle during the drive to Cape Town) are two lucky little turtles”, said Maryke.
Claudine van Zyl completed her Work Imtegrated Learning (WIL) internship with us last year. Her research project was: ‘The characterisation of plastics in stranded post-hatchling loggerhead turtles along the South African coastline from 2015 to 2020’.
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.
Grant Blakeway completed the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge by solo rowing 4 800 km across the Atlantic. He did this to highlight the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean.