Dead baby turtles found washed up on Cape beaches were most likely killed by plastic.
These are the findings of marine scientists that dissected loggerhead hatchlings found along the Overstrand coastline last week.
The South African Shark Conservancy dissected three dead turtles that were found along with around 20 live ones on Grotto Beach, Die Platt, Kamabaai and Voelklip in Hermanus in April.
“We found micro-plastics, Styrofoam balls, small pieces of plastic wrappers,” the centre’s Operations Manager, Natalia Drobniewska, told News24.
She added that the findings were in line with what they expected.
“We weren’t surprised at all, as plastic pollution is becoming a serious problem affecting marine life.”
Drobniewska added: “The mortality of these turtles was most likely caused by plastic ingestion, also cold temperatures and predation by other animals.
“Fish, seabirds, turtles and marine mammals can become entangled in, and ingest, plastic debris, causing suffocation, starvation and drowning. Over time, larger pieces of plastic debris break down into tiny particles, which in turn end up in the seafood we eat.”
The surviving hatchlings were transported to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, where they are being cared for in the facility’s turtle rehabilitation centre.
On Wednesday, the aquarium received its 200th hatchling, in what is turning out to be a busy season.
Fifty hatchlings were sent to uShaka Sea World last week to make space for more new arrivals.
Talitha Noble, who runs the rehab centre, said plastic ingestion is a very common and deadly problem.
“A lot of our turtles coming in have plastic in them… Upon post-mortem, the ones that have died – most of them have also had varying amounts of micro plastic inside of them…”
Aquarium spokespersonRenée Leeuwner explained that even those which survive plastic ingestion can incur terrible injuries.
“Some of them do pass the plastic, but if it’s really hard, edgy plastic it obviously does incredible trauma to their insides and also their cloaca.”