World Turtle Day

Turtle Rescue_@PeterChadwick_AfricanConservationPhotographer

Turtle Rescue. Today the 23rd of May is World Turtle Day and in the southern Cape of South Africa, there have been an influx of Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings washing ashore and being rescued and sent for rehabilitation to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. The turtle hatchlings are likely to have come from the nesting beaches of southern Mozambique and northern Zululand and on entering the sea were washed southwards by the warm Agulhas current. On reaching the cold Cape waters, they end up washing ashore from cold shock and possible dehydration.

A week or so ago, my daughter Xante and her close friend and mentor Hilde, were riding their horses (as part of Pony Club Overberg) along the Arniston coastline, when they found one of the hatchlings and immediately rescued it. After stabilising the turtle overnight, a lift was arranged for the hatchling to the aquarium the following day thanks to John Woodcock and it is now doing well in recovery under the competent care of qualified aquarium staff. The story of this particular hatchling that ended up having a long horse ride back to safety was also featured by the Two Oceans Aquarium in one of their news posts.

For me though as a conservationist who has always encouraged my children to be aware and take care of the environment, the real story only begins here. The impact that this specific turtle has made on my daughter is incredible. The excitement of being able to find a live turtle hatchling and then rescue it, stabilise it and then be featured in a news piece is indescribable and has been a life changing event. My daughter now avidly follows the updates of all of the other turtle rescues and has become an even more committed defender of the oceans and on every beach trip, she now actively searches for and collects any rubbish found on the beaches and we are not allowed to leave the beach until all the litter has been cleaned up. She is also quick to tell all her friends (and her mother) and others about the damage and risks caused by plastic and waste and how they threaten the turtles and other ocean life.

We must never under-estimate the power of awareness and positive education in a child's life and the impact that a single event in the outdoors can have. Seeing the impact of this single turtle hatchling on my daughter, I remain incredibly optimistic that despite all of the environmental challenges being faced by the planet, the youth of today will become far better and more caring leaders and custodians of the earth than all of the previous generations. It also clearly shows that each of us has the ability to make a positive difference – a small effort can save a life!