Living as I do in South Africa with its horrendous daily statistics of rhino, elephant and other wildlife slaughter, it has become very clear to me that there is a mighty tussle going on for the planet’s last remaining wildlife.
On the one hand there are those with no compunction about slaughtering different species, and I am not necessarily referring to hungry villagers or shady gangs of poachers here, but (dammit!!) educated people who should know better. And on the other hand there are those who are trying their utmost to conserve the little wildlife there still is. This, for me, represents both the worst and best of the human race. So why should a turtle release be a victory for us all?
Life on land is dependent on life in the ocean, yet only in our time have we begun to understand its importance or to extrapolate that what happens in the ocean directly affects us on land. This awareness, however, has done little to prevent “sea blindness” which has meant that submerged, out-of-sight marine habitats have largely been out of the public’s mind. Also, a “charisma gap” has meant that many marine creatures, lacking the appeal of their terrestrial counterparts, have been overexploited to the point of extinction – extinction having reached an unprecedented rate with barely a whisper of public outrage.
Rehabilitating a tiny sea turtle hatchling, a sub-adult like Bob, or an adult turtle found stranded or washed up on a Cape Town beach, weak, cold, hurt and dehydrated, represents months of intensive care and careful monitoring.
Their release at the end of this lengthy process also represents a major commitment as the turtles have to be transported and released in the warm Indian Ocean on the other side of South Africa, which requires a coordinated effort between the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town and the uShaka Marine World in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
That so much care and effort is expended on taking care of and releasing a shy, gentle marine species verging on the edge of extinction, speaks volumes about the tussle that is consuming our planet. As a demonstration of hope and the best of humankind, it represents a victory for us all!!
(Photographs by courtesy of the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town)