Critically endangered turtle rehabilitated and released

The hawksbill turtle is prepared for release back into her natural habitat

After six weeks under the care of uShaka Sea World Rehabilitation staff following a shark bite, an adult hawksbill turtle was released back into the sea on a perfect winter's morning.

On 25 July uShaka Sea World staff, assisted by Blue Juice Dive Operators, released the female turtle at Two Mile Reef in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site.

The turtle had been found stranded and bleeding on the beach at Kosi Bay six weeks earlier, after losing a front flipper due to a suspected shark bite.

She received intensive medical treatment for blood loss, dehydration and fatigue. Over time her wound healed and she spent hours adapting to swimming with three flippers in the protected rehabilitation pools at the aquarium. She soon mastered the art of navigation and staff felt confident she would be able to successfully resume her life in the wild.

Her natural diet of sponges are plentiful on Two Mile Reef, making it an ideal release site. As soon as she was released from the boat, she swam down to the reef and began exploring a familiar environment.

Stretchering the turtle out to the boat for a short trip to Two Mile Reef in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Since 2005 uShaka Sea World has admitted seven stranded hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), six of which have been successfully rehabilitated and returned to the ocean. 

Turtles are threatened worldwide by human impact due to habitat loss and degradation, illegal wildlife trade, collection of eggs and meat for consumption, incidental capture for commercial and subsistence fisheries, climate change and pollution.

The hawksbill is one of the smaller turtle species, and is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

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