Turtle rehab

Conservation fund

A tag for Litchi

Help us tag Litchi!

On 22 February 2021, we received a 7 kg green turtle from De Hoop Nature reserve. It had been found by guests at one of the lodges in the reserve and was kindly, and quickly, driven through to us.

When Litchi arrived she was in very good body condition, showing no signs of dehydration, but had many marine leeches attached to her! There were small leeches in her nose and many larger leeches around her tail and back flippers. Added to this were many mats of leech eggs across her body.

A little bit of research revealed that there are only two species of marine leech that live on sea turtles, and that they are very easy to tell apart (Ozonbranchus branchiatus has 7 gills and Ozobranchus margoi has 5 gills). We were therefore able to identify that Litchi was acting as host to Ozobranchus margoi. Leeches suck the blood from turtles (which left Litchi quite anaemic), but they are also vectors for viruses, most commonly Fibropapilloma (herpes virus). Thankfully though there is no indication that Litchi has this virus (it usually presents externally with the growth of tumours).

Litchi has responded to her rehab process very well – she is swimming, passing faeces and eating well. She had a case of bubble butt, which made her swim with her bum out of the water. Her body also sits quite high off the ground and we are uncertain as to the root cause of this. We treated her for worms, did a contrast study, examined her poop and gave her space to have a really good fart!

Litchi is doing so much better and we are hoping to release her back into the ocean by the end of 2021, or early 2022.

There is still much to learn about sea turtles in the ocean, since they are open ocean travelers. The only time scientists can easily study them is when female sea turtles come to land to lay their eggs, or when sea turtles end up in rehabilitation facilities such as ours. However, through satellite tracking technology, we are able to get some insight into sea turtle migrations and behaviours. Because of this, we would like to tag Litchi, so that we can find out more about her specifically, but also about green sea turtles in general, along the southern African coastline.

A tag for Litchi will cost R30 000. Please donate towards the cost of this tag, so that we can see where Litchi is headed next!