The Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse Ladies (L2L) committee was excited to announce their new collaboration with the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation (TOAEF) last week. The Turtle Rehab Team from the Foundation will be joining the ladies on their two 100 km charity walks in 2021. 

A rescued turtle hatchling receiving care at Two Oceans Aquarium. PHOTO: Two Oceans Aquarium

The Foundation focuses on rescuing weak and vulnerable sea turtle hatchlings that are stranded along our coastline every year between March and July, which coincides with both L2L walks (in February and May). 

Two Oceans Aquarium was opened to the public for the very first time in 1995 and has since grown to be not only a top tourist destination, but also an institution internationally respected for its contribution to environmental education programmes and conservation efforts. 

These important and exciting activities all fall within the newly established Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, of which one of the most active programmes is the Turtle Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Programme. 

The Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse Ladies Committee and members of the Two Oceans Turtle Rehab Team met at Burgundy Restaurant to finalise their collaboration last week. From left to right are Ronelle van Zyl (L2L Chairperson), SImone Heunis and Elna de Villiers of L2L; with owner of Burgundy Restaurant Rudolf van der Berg; and Maryke Musson, Tracey Whitehead and Talitha Noble of TOAEF. PHOTO: Taylum Meyer

As part of the project, members of the public ranging from school kids to dog walkers, from truck drivers to park rangers, have helped by rescuing distressed turtles and getting them to the Two Oceans Aquarium Turtle Rehab. Over the last three years, this has grown into a Turtle Rescue Network that is over 1 000 km long and has over 60 active members. 

Over the past few years, TOAEF has undertaken education-oriented coastal road trips to create awareness, teaching people about the stranding season and enabling them to be turtle rescuers, both when they find a stranded turtle on the beach and in their lifestyle choices every day. In 2019, this road trip reached over 10 000 members of the public, including school learners through ECD-focused puppet shows and story books.

Once in TOEAF’s care, the little rescued turtles receive all the nutrition, medical attention and life support they need in order heal and grow strong enough to be released back into the ocean. These stories of rescue, strength and resilience, of partnership and teamwork, and ultimately of release are powerful and inspiring to all involved. (You can read some of these stories at www.aquarium.co.za/content/page/turtles.) 

The four ‘mermaids’ of the Turtle Rehab team will join the 120 Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse walkers on both 100 km walks next year to raise awareness for this project. They are looking forward to being ambassadors on behalf of turtles as they ‘walk to teach, walk to learn, walk to support, and walk to rescue’. The four mermaids will continue walking for an additional 120 km along the coastline at the end of the first 100 km walk in February to continue with their work and several members of the Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse committee will join them.

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