When a tiny leatherback hatchling was brought into uShaka Sea World’s rehabilitation centre recently after being found by an angler on Ansteys Beach, it was thought to be most unusual.
Leatherback turtle hatchlings have rarely been found washed up on Southern KZN beaches.
Later, it proved an even bigger surprise when 21 year old student Asive Sidloyi arrived at uShaka Sea World with six tiny Leatherback hatchlings in a bucket. He had seen the hatchlings floundering on the beach at Ansteys and decided to try and help the little ones return to the ocean.
The curator of uShaka Sea World’s Aquarium, Simon Chater, was called to receive the precious cargo.
The moment he saw the tiny hatchlings, it was clear to him that these healthy little turtles were not more than a day or so old. “There is a strong possibility these turtles hatched on Ansteys, even though their natural nesting range is limited to the far northern beaches of KZN. In the past 20 years, less than five cases of leatherback turtle nests have been recorded south of St Lucia.
Turtle hatchlings naturally make their way towards light once they emerge from the sand. In rural areas, this light is reflected by the moon over the ocean and signals the direction in which the hatchlings need to move.
Unfortunately, these hatchlings at Ansteys Beach were probably confused by the urban lights and, instead of heading out to sea; they started their life’s journeys making their way up the beach!
Sidloyi explained that “no matter how many times I put the turtles back in the surf they kept coming out again. I then decided to put them in a bucket and bring them to uShaka.”
Sidloyi’s kindness means that these six young leatherback turtles, together with their cousin who arrived the day before, will be given a second chance. Leatherback turtles (Dermochelyscoriacea) are classified as critically endangered and only one out of every 1000 hatchlings survives to adulthood.
uShaka Sea World staff have already released the baby turtles out in the Mozambique current where they belong.
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