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NSRI EMERGENCY
OPERATION CENTRE (EOC)

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NSRI catches up with Two Oceans Aquarium curator Maryke Musson to find out what happened to the loggerhead turtle rescued by the Kommetjie crew.In July 2019, Station 26 (Kommetjie) crew painstakingly disentangled a seal and a loggerhead turtle caught up in the same fishing net and washed ashore on Noordhoek Beach. The seal was uninjured and, delighted to be free, headed straight back out to sea. The turtle, however, was weak. So much so that the person who first spotted her on the beach initially thought she was dead.Somewhat wryly, the rescue crew named her Anette and she was taken to the Two Oceans Aquarium for treatment and rehabilitation.“She was a challenging case,” explains aquarium curator Maryke Musson. “While it’s not uncommon for loggerhead turtles to go two to three months without food, we couldn’t get her to eat until December – a full five months after she was rescued.”Anette had a condition that affected her buoyancy. Instead of floating neutrally in the water, she tended to swim bum up, which earned her the nickname ‘bubblebutt’. “The staff joked that she needed to fart more, and she was treated for bacteria and given probiotics because excess gas in the gut can cause this problem.”“We tried and tried to get her to feed. In the end, a diver who didn’t know her story offered her a piece of squid – and she just took it!”While the vet was happy with her progress, concerns about her buoyancy led to the decision to delay her release until summer 2020. Anette will need to be taken 20 to 30 nautical miles offshore, where warmer ocean currents flow. This is best done later in the year, after the winter storms have passed.At the moment she’s doing very well in the I&J Ocean Exhibit at the aquarium, where the water temperature of between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius is just right for her. She moved here in November 2019, after living in a quarantine pool in the months after her rescue.Anette is a fussy eater – preferring squid to hake – and she steers clear of Bob, the other loggerhead turtle in the exhibit. “They have a bit of a sibling rivalry,” explains Maryke. In fact, Bob now has a scar from being nipped by Anette.The aquarium gets about three to five calls per year to assist loggerhead turtles, but not all are a lucky as Anette. One recent rescue, who was also entangled in a net, died after a surgical procedure on a gangrenous flipper. An autopsy uncovered no fewer than 67 pieces of ingested plastic.“We see plastic in all the rescue turtles,” says Maryke. Alvi, a loggerhead found with a plastic bag stuck in his oesophagus, was released after a year in rehab. He was fitted with a tracking device and is now about to enter waters off the coast of Angola.If all goes according to plan, Anette will also be fitted with a device from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, which will allow her to be tracked until the battery runs flat.“We need to be aware of the real impacts of single-use plastics like bags and balloons,” urges Maryke. “These are items we can live without and which tend to get swallowed by indiscriminate feeders such as turtles. Participating in beach and river clean-ups is another way to help.”Between 1 January and 1 July 2020, the NSRI responded to 50 call-outs involving marine animals. Your donation helps make these rescues possible. Find out more.
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