Yum! Floating turtle food!

Hmm. My hands smell of turtle food. 
This time the aquarists got the recipe right: the food floated which makes it MUCH easier to feed the babies because you don’t have to hold every single little bit for them to eat. And it wasn’t so tough that they had to wrench at it and struggle to bite through each piece.

It’s too cute. If you try to feed one that’s had enough to eat, it does this little “nope!” gesture,  pushing at your fingers with both it’s flippers and turning it’s head away.

Otto the Turtle

This is Otto. He is huge. He weights about 76kg. When you tap on that little porthole, he comes and checks you out, blocking it with his great big beak.  I tried taking a pic of that but it didn’t come out.

Turtle Progress

Most of the baby turtles that were brought in to the aquarium are doing very well.  On Thursday, a number of them will be flown up to be released on the East Coast, where they are originally from.  Not sure if this little guy will go, he’s still in quarantine, but going strong and eating well.

Little A8 Won’t Eat

It’s easy to forget that animals like turtles are individual beings with their own quirks and peculiarities.  For example, unlike most of the other turtles in rehab, this little guy, in quarantine tank A8, refuses to eat.

I spent extra long with him today, trying to persuade him to eat but in the end it was clearly just stressing him out too much. I’m not sure how much longer he will live if he doesn’t take in any food, but if he refuses to eat there’s little we can do.

Meet Bob

This is Bob. He was found injured and with a belly full of plastic and balloons. It’s a dramatic story, and you can read about it here, ( it has a happy ending!)

I saw Bob the green turtle just the other day, in a bin on the aquarium roof. This is a picture I took of him. He’s improved so much since he was found .  Lovely creature.


Meet “M” and “N”. They are inside, in one of the many quarantine tanks where the weaker turtles are being kept for observation.
See that little triangular bit taken out of the food I’m holding? That’s the profile of their little mouths. N, in particular, made valiant attempts at clipping pieces out of my hand. Luckily his jaws are not nearly strong enough!

I now have a sore back from crouching over tanks all day long, persuading baby turtles to eat.  Most of them did, but some of the wilder ones that have recently arrived were not interested.

Weighing the babies

Today, volunteer duty at the Two Oceans was unusually interesting: weighing and feeding just under 200 baby turtles.

These little guys were washed up on our Cape Town beaches, far from the warm Indian Ocean currents where they belong. They are all starving, suffering from hypothermia and dehydration and various other ailments as a result of their traumatic experience.

If they survive and grow big and strong they’ll be taken back up to their home waters and released. But first they must put on some weight!

Here are some more pictures of the baby turtles.  Apparently, although there are little ones found on our beaches every year, there’s never been so many as there are this year. Already nearly 200 and still more expected.  
These ones are teeny tiny, and can fit in the palm of your hand. 
They are numbered so that we can keep track of how they are doing. Every day, they get weighed, and the ones that are not doing so well are moved in to their own little quarantine tank.  The rest get to hang out together in bigger tanks.

Today there was one that died, poor little guy, and one that’s refused to eat for two days now. The others are gulping their food down like real little troupers.  In fact, you have to watch it or they will nip at your fingers!

This is what we feed them. Doesn’t it look good? 🙂  A pureed mix of clam, pilchard, and other seafood, set in gelatin.  Has quite a niff to it, but the babies love it.

Turtles big and small

I skived off from the perpetual squid-cutting duties to go and watch the turtles being fed.  Up on top of the Two Oceans aquarium, on the roof, is the quarantine area where sick animals and new arrivals are kept.  But these are by far the most charming.  A whole row of tanks, each one with a baby turtle flailing around inside it signalling “feed me!” with their flippers.

These little guys were rescued, found washed up on the beaches here in Cape Town. They are from the warmer east coast and got swept here into our cold waters where they usually die of hypothermia, or drown, unless they are rescued.  They are being kept here until they are big and strong and healthy enough to be released again.


A little further on, in a big drum covered over with netting is this:


This is Otto, a rescued hawskbill turtle who was found washed up and dying at Yzerfontein.  The photo doesn’t really convey how impressive she is.  She’s a big girl, and she looks as though she’s doing really well now.

In case you are interested:

Ghost in the Aquarium

I arrived a little early for my aquarium volunteer shift at the Two Oceans this morning.  Lights were still off.  Quite amazingly spooky, walking around in a dark aquarium.


The baby ragged-tooth sharks were the best, but the tank was so dark the picture I took came out completely black 🙂  So all I’ve got to show is this hungry stingray.

Hermit Crab Rehoming

Yesterday, I saw a hermit crab swop homes.  I’ve never seen that before!  In the picture, he’s back in his original shell.  He tried out the periwinkle shell facing him, for a bit, and then decided it’s not quite to his taste and whipped himself back to his old home again.

We’ll have to find him a large enough shell.  He was clambering up to the curved out-pipe that drains the pond, and fingering it with all his feelers, clearly going “Hmm.  This one has potential, definite potential.”

Squirting Squid Eyes

I did my first stint of “Behind the Scenes” work at the Two Oceans aquarium today. It was great! I’ll probably get all jaded and bored with this stuff soon enough, but right now everything is new and interesting.

First thing in the morning – went to the office to sign in, and found a penguin standing there, eyeing every body up and down 🙂 Very cute.

Cleaned the tank of a mantis shrimp (the creature of Oatmeal fame) which is apparently the most intelligent of the crustaceans.  Had to work with long-stemmed implements, as putting my hand in the water would be a bit dangerous.  To quote from that Oatmeal link, mantis shrimp can accelerate to the velocity of a bullet shot from a 22 calibre rifle, and strike with a force of 1500 Newtons.  Ouch!

Here he is:



I also had to keep track of a single fish ( a spotted grunter) in a shoal of many, many others, to help a diver catch it so it could go into quarantine.

And for most of the time, I cut  piles and piles of shrimp, squid, and redbait into tiny pieces.  This platter was lunch for the giant spider crabs. The big lesson here was that squid eyes squirt fluid all over the place if you don’t watch it.  Also, they have little tiny beaks like parrots, I’d never seen those before.


Just being in the aquarium is such a pleasure – for example, here’s a glimpse of the White Steenbras in the Kelp Tank:


And that’s it until the week after next, when I’m on duty again 🙂


What’s in the Bowl?

Did my stint operating the Two Ocean’s aquarium microscope today. It’s always a bit of a surprise what you’ll find in the bowls.  This one contains, among other creatures

– Anemone (not sure what kind,  the thing like a golden chrysanthemum in the middle there)
– A Pycnogonida, or scarlet sea spider with egg pouches (see him just above the anemone)
– A Red chested sea cucumber (little dude on the left that looks like a chilli with a moustache)
– Golden sea cucumber, (peachy thingimajig bottom left)
–  Feather star (bristly person upper right)
–  Several barnacles
–  Nudibranch (not really visible against the left edge)
–Billions of brine shrimp all over the place

And that’s just one of the bowls!

Cold Water Afternoon

This is where I spent my afternoon yesterday, up to my elbows in icy water,  looking after the touch pool at the Two Oceans aquarium.  Encouraging children and adults to interact with the various creatures.  Mostly anemones and starfish 🙂

The colours in the photo didn’t really come out so nicely but those anemones are stunning.  Like living chrysanthemums.  They are greedy too!

Two Oceans Kelp Forest

I tried — and failed — to get a good photo of the Kelp Forest display,  my absolute, all time favourite tank at the Two Oceans.  Every time I see it, it grabs all of my attention.  It’s like one of those Japanese paintings come to life.

The kelp sways slowly from side to side,  the sunlight shines through the dim water, and every now and then a particularly large fish looms out from between the kelp leaves to give you a cynical mother-in-law sort of look.

Rock Pool

Rock pool at Mouille point this morning. Our aquarium-volunteers training group went on a field trip 🙂

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