The newly released Green turtle pair, nicknamed ‘Mel’ and ‘Grotto’, have been in the care of uShaka Sea World for the past three weeks after being found stranded in separate incidents. Green turtles – although they do not nest on our shores – are resident in iSimangaliso. The nearest breeding grounds are in the Mozambique Channel. Adults may reach sizes of about 78 to 112 cm and weigh between 68 and 186 kilograms.
Little ‘Mel’ is small, weighing only 816 grams. She stranded at the Willows outside of Port Elizabeth on 16 December 2015 and was taken to Bayworld for initial care. She was treated for “shell rot” and thankfully recovered completely. Mel has a healthy appetite and gained weight steadily throughout the year. Two weeks ago she was transported to Durban closer to her natural habitat and ultimate release site.
Grotto, whose gender is unknown, is larger and weighs 12.6 kg with a carapace length of 480 mm. Grotto was taken to the Two Oceans Aquarium after stranding on Grotto Beach on 29 April this year.
Both turtles were checked by uShaka’s resident veterinarian Dr Francois Lampen, who found them to be in good health and ready for release.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is renowned for many attributes, including biodiversity and its five major interlinking ecosystems. Amongst these are the spectacular coral reefs off Sodwana Bay and the Coastal Forest section of the Park, which provide shelter to myriad sea life, notably five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles. iSimangaliso’s reefs form part of an extensive marine protected area, where habitat destruction and harvesting are minimal threats to the turtles visiting our Park. With the numerous sheltered inshore reefs and the protection afforded by a Marine World Heritage Site, Mabibi represents a safe release site for small green turtles.
Our shores are also the last significant breeding site of leatherback and loggerhead turtles in Africa. Turtles are threatened worldwide by human impact. Threats include habitat loss and degradation, wildlife trade, collection of eggs and meat for consumption, incidental capture in commercial and subsistence fisheries (bycatch), climate change and pollution. Diving at Sodwana Bay offers a great opportunity to spot – and photograph – one or more of the five sea turtle species that occur in these protected waters.
This is not the first time rehabilitated turtles and other marine species have been released into iSimangaliso, which has also provided a safe haven for rescued hawksbill turtles and potato bass in recent years.
With a legacy of over 60 years of turtle research and conservation along its well protected shores – the longest running in the world – every effort is being made by iSimangaliso, with its partners SAAMBR (incorporating uShaka Sea World) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, to ensure that this and other turtles survive and thrive,” says iSimangaliso Authority CEO Andrew Zaloumis.
Turtle tours operate from November to March and provide the opportunity for Park visitors to witness the miracle of egg laying and hatching of the loggerhead and leatherback turtles on the iSimangaliso beaches. Tours depart from St Lucia, Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, Mabibi, Manzengwenya and Bhanga Nek.
Visit the iSimangaliso website www.isimangaliso.com for more information.
Urgent intervention is needed to stop an estimated 25million tons of plastic flowing into the oceans every year.
If nothing is done, humans will start to asphyxiate themselves in less than two decades because plastic pollution is impairing plankton’s ability to produce oxygen.
“People do not realise that 50% of the earth’s oxygen is produced by microscopic plankton in the ocean. And if take that away we won’t be able to breath soon,” said Marco Simeoni, president of the Race for Water Foundation.
Yesterday the foundation shared an overview of the current state of pollution in oceans at a media briefing at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.
The foundation’s scientific crew collected data and compiled a snapshot of plastic pollution across the globe on a 300-day, 40 000 nautical mile research expedition as part of a United Nations-led campaign called The Race for Water Odyssey.
They visited island beaches situated in known pollution hotspots – five vortexes of plastic waste miles wide that has formed across the various oceans.
“Our preliminary results from the first three stopovers in the Azores, Bermudas and Easter Island showed that plastic makes up 80% of waste in our seas,” said Frédéric Sciacca, scientific adviser to the odyssey.
Hard plastic made up between 40% and 74% of the total amount of plastic found at these three sites. Fishing line and rope was the next biggest category, followed by foam, capsules, film and cigarette filters.
Plastic pollution is taking a devastating toll on sea life with 267 different species known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all sea bird species, while 70 to 100% of albatrosses are known to ingest plastics.
“Plastic is also putting the human food chain at risk. Fish are eating the plastic, and we are eating the fish. We are starting to ingest toxic material,” Simeoni said.
The mayority of plastic pollution is caused by land-based pollution that is swept into the oceans by heavy rains and rivers.
“We cannot live without plastic. Our aims is to find ways to clean up the ocean and to develop sustainable and viable industrial techniques for collecting plastic in order to stop it being a pollution,” Simeoni said.