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And he's IN!

ST LUCIA, KWAZULU-NATAL – On Tuesday I rescued a leatherback turtle hatchling! First one I’ve ever seen – and in broad daylight at St Lucia’s Estuary beach in South Africa… writes DEBBIE MARSHALL COOPER.

We received a call Tuesday morning that the turtles were seen on the beach, so I shot off – but was already too late to see anything but loads of confused-looking tracks…

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Turtle tracks from dune to sea

(including those of one hippo).

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Hippo tracks too

Up into the dunes we searched. Too late to see the turtles. Or so I thought…

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Up into the dunes we searched

One of the guys spotted this little turtle trapped in vegetation on the edge of the estuary, miles from the ocean in the boiling hot sun.

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Trapped in the vegetation far from the sea

We thought he was dead – but when I put him on my palm I felt a weak movement, so off I charged across the beach and into the sea…

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Dead? NO…a tiny movement…

As we got closer and he sensed the ocean, his head came up…

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The head came up as he sensed the ocean…

and he started flapping his flippers…

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And as we got closer, he started to flap those flippers!

Then as I put him on the edge of the waves…

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Water!! The edge of the wave
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Water!!

he was OFF, swimming strong and free.

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And he’s IN!
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A big breath before the dive
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Home free!

What an experience… truly MADE MY DAY.

***

Photos and story © Debbie Marshall Cooper. This story first appeared on Parks and Wildlife – Zululand’s (PAWZ) Facebook page; and is republished with kind permission of Debbie M. Cooper and PAWZ.

Leatherback Turtles Info

Leatherback are the largest turtles on the planet – they grow up to two metres long, and can weigh over 900 kg. According to National Geographic, their roots trace back to more than 100 million years ago. They were around when T-Rex was alive! The leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world. Sadly, almost all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered.