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The all-female dream team of our turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme
By:
Martine Viljoen
Martine is one of the Head Turtlelologists at the Aquarium Foundation, forming part of the all-female sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release team. She is also a social media consultant, telling conservation stories through our social media platforms, through imagery and video.

It honestly takes a village of women to raise our turtles -> Talitha, Tracy, Inge, Martine, Claudine, Alex, Kirsten, Taahirah, Calley & Melissa. These young women have taken on the role of caring for our ocean ambassadors.

It’s the diversity of experience & varied skill sets that each individual brings, combined with a unified purpose of being willing to cross the earth to help these amazing animals, that makes our rehab so strong & successful. The differences we bring are what unifies us – with us all having that maternal desire to look after each little turtle as though they were our own.

  • The observant among us keep an eye on which flippers aren’t being used & who is eating all their food offered
  • The energetic ensure our tanks & space are always optimally clean
  • The planners think ahead & prepare our turtles for their eventual future release
  • And the storytellers share tales of the blue with our little hatchlings, inspiring them to grow & thrive to the best of their abilities  

Coming together we are all different parts that make up one all-caring and all-encompassing mother!

I want to introduce these incredible ladies that head up the team responsible for looking after the turtles in our care:

Talitha Noble – Conservation manager 

Talitha is the shining, guiding light that heads up our turtle team, primarily responsible for the well being of all the turtles in our care.

She is focused on growing us into an inspiring, world-class turtle facility on all levels: medically, through life support, nutrition, research, story telling, partnership building, stoke sharing, love & light spreading!

Our real-life mermaid and turtle protector (Photo credit: Willem van der Heever)

Our calm and forever helpful turtle champion (Photo credit: Willem van der Heever)

Inge Adams – Pharmacist to our turtles

Dispensing all medication that our rehab turtles require, who steps in as Talitha, when she is not around.

Senior & Honorary Head Turtlelologist who spends most of her time in the Two Oceans Aquarium Animal Health team but is always at hand to step in with the turtle kids whenever we are in need.

Tracy Whitehead – Turtle Network Coordinator

Ultimate volunteer & turtle rescue hero heading up our Turtle Rescue Network.

Over the past four years, she has coordinated the rescue of over 400 turtles from hatchlings to larger turtles. Nothing is ever too small / too large for Tracy to go the distance.

We absolutely could not do what we do without Tracy and the incredible network of relationships she has curated, and made a reality, in support of our turtle rehab.

Mama T, to both the turtle team and the turtles (Photo credit: Aquarium Foundation)

Conservation storyteller and turtle advocate (Photo credit: Willem van der Heever)

Martine Viljoen – Head turtlelologist & conservation social media consultant

Creating content and sharing impactful conservation stories on our social media platforms. Working on growing our reach and partnership opportunities.

Superpower: tapping into conservation network for turtleriffic events

Alexandra Panagiotou – Head turtlelologist & sea turtle enrichment specialist

Engaging with guests about the enrichment work we do, using experiential and tactile learning. Doing continuous observational data capture, analysis, writing and reporting. She is focusing on preparing Bob for release.

Superpower: turtle whispering and sharing Bob love with all who meet him

Sea turtle specialist with a passion for enrichment (Photo credit: Aquarium Foundation)

Spreading turtle love with fun and enthusiasm (Photo credit: Willem van der Heever)

Claudine Van Zyl – Head turtlelologist 

Doing Advanced Diploma in Marine Sciences focusing on hatchling hitchhikers (i.e. other living things that like settling on sea turtles)

Superpower: Keeping things sparkly, organised & providing groovy tunes

We couldn’t achieve our 85% successful release rate without the support of our incredible turtle interns. We are beyond appreciative to have them part of our turtle rehab team, assisting us in providing a significant boost to our wild sea turtle populations, with us having released over 600 turtles this last decade.

Kirsten Bessick – TOAEF turtle intern

“I love being a part of such a supportive and hardworking team. Being able to work with turtles, watch them grow and improve has been such a dream and I’m loving every second of it!”

Dedicated and passionate sea turtle hero (Photo credit: Martine Viljoen)

Positive and kind conservationist (Photo credit: Martine Viljoen)

Taahirah Sait – WESSA Intern 

“I love being part of the Turtle Rehab Team because we’re always happy and we’re always positive that we can nurse a turtle back to health, to be released back into the wild”

Melissa Abrahams– WWF Intern

“I honestly can’t explain what a privilege it is to work with the TOAEF Turtle Rehab Team. Everyday is a day filled with joy, passion, encouragement, and possibly some random dancing! I’ve never felt this at home so quickly in a working environment and what makes it all the better, is knowing that everyone in our team has the same goal: to always put our beautiful turtles first and foremost, giving them the best possible care possible while in our center”

Dedicated biologist and conservationist (Photo credit: Martine Viljoen)

Biologist and conservationist working for turtles (Photo credit: Martine Viljoen)

Calley Chateau-Cyster – WWF Intern 

The reason I love being part of the TOAEF turtle rehabilitation team is the fact that there is an amazing group of strong women who make up the rehabilitation team. Each individual brings their own unique aspect to ensure a lasting difference in the lives of our turtles at the rehab center. The team is dedicated and goes above and beyond to provide the best care possible to our turtles to ensure that they are healthy and thriving, allowing us to eventually release them

We could not do what we do, without the support of donors, both individual and corporate. Thank you to long-time partners Fresh Fruit Company for their continued support for sea turtles. We are also thankful to our amazing partners, Consol Glass, who strive to raise awareness on the plastic pollution problem our oceans are facing, while also supporting our Turtle Rescue, Rehabilitation & Release programme. Donations allow us to continue providing the individual care each turtle needs to heal, and grow strong enough, to be safely released back into the wild!

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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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