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Turtle Rescue: Information for the Public

12 May 2019
Sea turtles, being temperate-water animals, don’t fare well in the icy Cape waters and it is crucial that they get help as quickly as possible. ​

Read on to learn more about what you can do should you come across a marine turtle stranded on the beaches around Cape Town.

Please note: This advice is only valid for marine turtle strandings around the Western Cape. Should you come across a turtle elsewhere around the South African coast, please contact a local aquarium or animal rehabilitation centre.

If you find a tiny hatchling:


The first thing to do is to remove the turtle from the beach and place it in a dry container.

Keep it at room temperature to warm up slowly. Stranded turtles often suffer from hypothermia, which makes them weak - in many instances, they will be so weak that they cannot lift their heads.

Like humans, sea turtles breathe air, and if a turtle cannot lift its head out of the water or is covered by a towel, sand or a closed container, it cannot breathe and will suffocate.

2. Identify your nearest Turtle Rescue Network point.

If you find the turtle near Cape Town, or on the Cape southern coast, please identify your nearest Turtle Rescue Network point - we have listed these at the end of this article.

Once you have made contact with your nearest Network point, arrangements will be made with you to get the turtle into professional hands.

Even if delivery of the turtle is delayed, or you struggle to get the turtle to safety, please do not be tempted to put it back in the water or on the beach - it breathes air and will survive as long as possible as long as it remains in your care. Releasing it carelessly will almost certainly result in its death.

3. Transporting the turtle:

With the small turtle safely in a breathable container, possibly placed on top of a towel or old cloth for comfort, the turtle is safe for transport. Please take care to keep it at a comfortable room temperature - if you are feeling hot or cold, the turtle will also have discomfort.

You do not need to feed it, give it water or clean it - their metabolisms are slow and your only concern now needs to be to get it to safety as quickly as possible.

4. Communicating effectively.

Please try to keep track of the following information as you go through the rescue process:

  • Is it a big turtle or a tiny hatchling?
  • Where did you find it?
  • Did you notice any obvious injuries?
  • If you hand the turtle over to someone else to transport, please ask for their name and contact number.

Passing this kind of information on to your Turtle Rescue Network contact will help them, and the Two Oceans Aquarium, arrange for its treatment and rehabilitation more effectively.

Two Oceans Aquarium contact details: +27 21 418 3823


Turtle Rescue Network contacts:

Organisations listed below have worked with the Two Oceans Aquarium team to ensure that their staff have the needed training and resources to help ensure a successful turtle rescue. 

  • GENERAL: Contact Rescue Network Coordinator Tracy on 083 300 1663
  • V&A Waterfront: Two Oceans Aquarium
    • Helpdesk: 021 418 3823
  • Strandfontein: NSRI
    • Nicky: 082 496 0350 / 021 434 4011
  • Muizenberg: Shark Spotters
    • Nicole: 072 897 6583
    • Sarah: 078 174 4244
  • Hermanus: South African Shark Conservancy
    • Bjorn: 079 765 8131
    • Natalie: 084 090 3297
  • Gansbaai: African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary
    • Theanette: 0826122093
    • Brenda: 076 061 3114
    • Meredith: 082 746 5579
    • Rescue: 072 5987 117)
  • Struisbaai: NSRI Station 30
    • Pieter: 076 274 1800
    • Rynard 083 273 8234
  • Witsand: Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust
    • Craig: 082 537 1286 / 066 019 6686
  • Stilbaai: NSRI
    • Arrie: 082 990 5978)
    • Leonie: 083 265 3515
  • Stilbaai: CapeNature
    • John: 071 392 8408
    • Jerome: 071 569 2606
  • Wilderness, George & Sedgefield: SANParks
    • Jonathan: 084 714 7793
  • Kynsna: SANParks
    • Owen: 044 302 564 3/ 08 3650 8649
    • Megan: 083 650 8649
    • Nick: 082 775 1659
  • Plettenberg Bay: Plett Stranding Network
    • Chanal: 072 317 2280
  • Plettenberg Bay: Nature's Valley Trust
    • Mark: 084 549 8498
  • Plettenberg Bay: Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
    • Cam: 082 486 1515