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Myrtle the flying turtle (and Kai the loggerhead)
By:
Maryke Musson
Maryke is the CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation. She is a scientist by training, but an absolute superwoman in general, juggling the daily operations and fulfilling the mission of the Aquarium Foundation.

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)

Peter and Hannah van Kets took Myrtle to Dr.Peter Wood for a checkup (Image credit: Peter van Kets)

Myrtle’s ride to the airport (Image credit: Darren Hanner)

“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.

Kelsey Yelseth piloted the plane, with safety pilot Darren Hanner. Kelsey’s mum Coral in the background with Myrtle the turtle (Image credit: Darren Hanner)

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.

Ruth Wright, aquarist at Bayworld, receiving Myrtle after her flight (Image credit: Darren Hanner)

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.

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The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation runs several holiday enrichment courses (known as ‘The Marine Science Academy courses’) for young natural historians with a particular interest in marine topics.
As they progress through the courses and climb the grades, many of them express an interest in pursuing a marine related career. This generally starts off as wanting to be a ‘Marine Biologist’, but further research and guidance through our courses makes them aware of the huge variety of careers on offer. Our courses for Grades 6 to 9 provide a general insight into marine sciences, building up to our Grade Ten ‘Young Biologist’ Course, which provides a good combination of experiential learning as well as the opportunity to volunteer in the aquarium, if they want to.
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This year’s Turtle Road Trip was different from past ones, as the team of the Turtle Rescue Programme used the opportunity to conduct in-depth field training with the people and organisations working on the ground monitoring and patrolling our coastline – we might be the people that rehabilitate turtles, but the men and women patrolling the hundreds of kilometers of coastline are the first line in saving a turtle’s life.

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