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Two Oceans Aquarium: Turtle rescue and release update

2 Oceans Aquarium

The most fulfilling part of rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles at the Two Oceans Aquarium is, of course, their release back into the ocean when they are fully recovered.

 

The most exciting (and quite often, most stressful) part is tracking the oceanic movements of these sea turtles. Where will they go next? Are they ok?

Fortunately, thanks to modern satellite tracking technology and the collaboration of government, Aquariums and generous donors are able to follow the journeys of some of our releases turtles closely – and provide you with their inspiring ocean adventure stories. Let’s take a closer look at their travels.

Release Stories

We are very fortunate to be able to work with the Department of Environmental Affairs to track the movements of these turtles and, thanks to generous donations by some of our funders, we were able to tag both Sandy and Noci recently and follow their journeys since their release on the 20 December 2018.

Sandy is a female green turtle that was rescued by the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust in September 2016 after having her carapace badly damaged by an apparent boat propeller strike. We didn’t think Sandy would make it – but this resilient turtle has turned out to be the ultimate survivor. Noci was also rescued near Witsand, on 29 April 2018, and through the combined efforts of the family who found him, the NSRI and the LBRC, was able to survive a severe systemic infection. Sandy, Noci and other rehab centre turtles were released together on 20 December 2018.

We would like to say another big thank you to the release team, the photographers and film crew and of course the NSRI.  Thank you to Gordon Hiles for capturing the tagging and release in this beautiful video.

Yoshi is the famous loggerhead turtle of the Two Oceans Aquarium that was released on 16 December 2017. Yoshi was the size of a dinner plate when she first arrived here, via a fishing boat, in 1997. For more than a year, Yoshi’s journey has been fascinating us and thousands of South African Yoshi-fans – and her journey is not over yet!

Last, but certainly not least, Pemba the olive ridley turtle that was found floating in Table Bay Harbour in December 2014, and released within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on 8 March 2018. Pemba’s release followed four years of cooperative rehabilitation and was made possible through the joint efforts of the Two Oceans Aquarium and uShaka Sea World in Durban. Like Yoshi, Pemba’s fanbase have eagerly been following his ocean exodus – a journey that continues to inspire.

Latest Updates: 4 January 2019

Noci: Noci, the large male loggerhead, headed straight up the West Coast after release off Cape Point and passed Saldanha bay by the 22 December 2018. He then continued up the West Coast, close to shore just past the Soutriver Estuary near Malkopbaai on the 27 December. This is exactly the area where Pemba, the olive ridley turtle released off the KwaZulu-Natal coast in March 2018, went very close to shore 3 months after her release, and about 30 kilometres north of where Yoshi, the loggerhead female, spent a few days very close to shore early January 2018. We are very keen to find out what attracts the turtles to that spot.

Oddly enough, Noci decided there and then to turn around, and spend New Years Day about 50km west of Lamberts Bay. He is about 42km west of Elandsbay at the moment in 17°C water moving against a slight current from the south.

Noci has covered 744km in total over 14 days, that is a very impressive 53km per day!

Sandy: Sandy, the feisty green turtle that recovered over a two year period after a very nasty boat strike, headed up the West Coast after release on the 20 December 2018, and then decided to spend a few days in and around Jacobs Bay and Saldanha Bay. She had us slightly worried for a bit, but with tremendous support and communications from the NSRI, especially Enrico Menzies from the Lamberts Bay base, our minds were put at ease as she explored the coastal waters in this area which was unusually lovely and warm.

By 29 December she started moving north again (much to our relief ) and passed St Helena Bay on New Years Day. She literally came within 10 kilometers of Noci who was heading back down the coast at the time. She is currently about 22km southwest of Lamberts Bay – swinging past the great NSRI crew and about 29km northeast of Noci. The water temperature is about 17°C – still nice and warm for the West Coast, but at the lower end of her preferred range, and she is swimming with a slight current from the south.

Sandy has covered 505km since her release, a fantastic 36km per day (bearing in mind she spent about 4 days in a small area off Jacobs bay – so certainly made up the distance since then).

What about Yoshi and Pemba – well these two turtles are still transmitting – and what incredible travels they have had thus far?

Yoshi: Yoshi has been back in the ocean for 383 days and has covered 9 500km, even though she is a mere 70km east of where she found herself on the 3rd of January 2018. She has maintained a very good pace of 25km per day. We are wondering how close to Cape Town she will find herself within the next week or two and whether she will head up the East Coast from here.

We have learned from Yoshi that turtles can adapt back into the ocean very well after extended time periods in captivity and that they are true oceanic travellers – she might very well swim around the ocean for another few years before nesting, and to date, we still have no idea where she is originally from. Our best guess at the moment is most likely from one of the Indian Ocean loggerhead populations.

Pemba: Pemba has been back in the ocean for 301 days and is currently about 380km northwest of the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean – 1650km west of Oranjemund. Pemba has now travelled more than 11 900km – an impressive 39.5km per day. She has slowed down over the last few weeks but is still using the currents to her advantage and she finds herself in 24.5°C water at the moment. She is a third of the way across the Atlantic Ocean towards Brazil. What an impressive journey!


Sources: Two Oceans Aquarium
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