On the 26th February 2020 an adult green turtle (Chelonia mydas) was admitted to uShaka Sea World after being found stranded on Lucien Beach in Margate on the lower south coast. Comparing her carapace length to growth models on Atlantic green turtles, we estimate her to be older than 60 years.
Lucien, as she was named by her rescuers, is without doubt the largest turtle we have admitted to the uShaka Sea World turtle rehabilitation facility and weights a hefty 127 kgs. It took six men and two ladies to lift her off the beach onto the awaiting vehicle which transported her to uShaka Sea World and another six men to lower her into the rehabilitation pool once she arrived.
On arrival she appeared to be in fairly good condition. Her only physical anomaly being a partially severed left hind flipper which had completely healed. Her 106 cm curved carapace was in excellent condition with few epibiota (organisms that live on the surface of another) present. This suggests that although she had been unwell, she had been fairly active.
It has been suggested, but not confirmed, that she is the resident Mzimkulu River turtle.
It was only after she was placed in one of the rehabilitation pools that the cause of her challenge became evident. She was markedly positively buoyant which meant that she was unable to dive, evade predators and forage. Radiographs and blood tests were taken and she was placed on two different antibiotics.
She has been placed in a quiet shallow pool which affords her the opportunity to move about whilst at the same time allowing her sufficient resting time. Adult green turtles are almost entirely herbivorous and she is strictly a codium (type of seaweed) girl. She has a healthy appetite and is eating more and more each day and growing stronger each week.
As soon as she is strong enough, she will begin “physiotherapy” which will assist her in regulating her buoyancy issues
Although we are always cautious, we are feeling confident that within a few months she will be diving well below the surface to retrieve her evidently delicious seaweed.