A new hope

Hello. My name is Sandy. I am a green sea turtle, and yes, I am a strong-willed and sassy lady turtle. I am currently living in a temporary home called the Two Oceans Aquarium, after circumstances beyond my control forced me to temporarily abandon my life plans of world travel and exploration. Being struck by a boat propeller will make you reassess your current place in time and space... It will also force you to literally “go with the flow” and be stranded on a beach. In my case, I was stranded near Witsand where a lady called Sarah found me. Sarah, bless her heart, thought I was dead, but when she saw me move, she jumped into action and organised to get me to the Aquarium’s sea turtle rehabilitation and release programme.

Rehab, the word has such bad connotations. Fortunately in my case, it is just the opposite.  After my safe arrival at the Aquarium, the team did a whole bunch of test. The vet prodded and poked and they treated my wounds – SO.MANY.TIMES. a day. For months! At first I really couldn’t understand what was happening, but then another young lady, called Talitha, started spending time with me. She’s special. She makes me feel special. Talitha seems to hold a degree in  “fussing over sick sea turtles”, and you know how us girls like to be fussed over! Talitha says that my wounds were so deep that when I breathed, you could see my body tissue move as my lungs expanded.  Not many people know that sea turtle shells are extremely sensitive. If you scratch our shells, we can feel it. I have to say that since my shell has healed a bit, a good tickle and scratch really brightens my day. I especially love being tickled under my neck. It completely puts me in a trance and sends me to my happy place. 

Us green sea turtles start out being omnivores (eating meat and vegetation). As we grow older we lose the meat-eating habit and become fully vegetarian. This means that at sea we eat algae and sea grasses. Here at the Aquarium it isn’t always that easy for Talitha and the team to get me algae. So, they feed me a variety of vegetables that they grow in a special garden on the roof of the Aquarium. I love carrots. They are my absolute favourite. O, and those sweet bell peppers are just divine.

Green sea turtles are normally found in the tropical and sub-tropical waters of the world. Some of us have been spotted quite often around the South African coast, but the waters around Cape Town and surrounds are actually too cold for us, so we stay north towards KwaZulu-Natal.  How, and why I ended up in Witsand is my secret and one that I am not prepared to tell… a lady has every right to keep a secret or two, you know.  While we are on the topic of secrets and other interesting titbits of information: We were named green sea turtles because the fat around our organs have a green tinge to it.

I am not the only sea turtle in the rehabilitation and release programme here at the Aquarium. As a matter of fact, at the moment there are many, many turtles here being treated and nursed back to health before they are released.  Once my wounds have healed completely and the vet says I am healthy, I will also be released. I am healing, but it is a very slow process. The gashes in my shell are smaller, but not yet completely closed. I am using my time at the Aquarium to fully recover and recuperate, because it is a wild world out there in the wide-open ocean, I am going to need all of my strength, wit and sass to survive.  Talitha is always telling everyone how easy it is for every person to help save sea turtles from extinction. She says that if you stop using single-use plastic, always recycle and always only eat sustainably sourced sea food, you will help make a difference in the plight of sea turtles. Here’s another fun fact: There are seven sea turtle species in the world. Every one of them have been classified as either vulnerable, endangered or even critically endangered. And every single sea turtle species has been found to have ingested plastic.

My name is Sandy and I am a green sea turtle. I am currently living in my temporary home at the Two Oceans Aquarium where I am part of the sea turtle rehabilitation and release programme. One day, when I have healed and am strong and healthy, I will return to the ocean.  I am sure my temporary human “Talitha”, will miss me, but I am also sure that my second chance at life will make her very happy.