Fortunately, thanks to modern satellite tracking technology and the collaboration of the government, aquariums and generous donors are able to follow the journeys of some of our released turtles closely - and to provide you with their inspiring ocean adventure 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 our funders, we were able to tag both Sandy and Noci recently and follow their journeys since their release on December 20, 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 April 29 last year, 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 December20 last year.
Yoshi is the famous loggerhead turtle of the Two Oceans Aquarium that was released on December 16, 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 fans - and her journey is not over yet!
Pemba, an olive ridley turtle, was found floating in Table Bay Harbour in December 2014, and released within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on March 8 last year.
Pemba’s release followed four years of co-operative rehabilitation and was made possible through the joint efforts of the Two Oceans Aquarium and uShaka Sea World in Durban. Like Yoshi, Pemba’s fan base has eagerly been following his ocean exodus - a journey that continues to inspire.
Noci: The large male loggerhead headed straight up the West Coast after release off Cape Point and passed Saldanha Bay by December22 last year. He then continued up the West Coast, close to the shore just past the Soutriver Estuary near Malkopbaai on December27. This is exactly the area where Pemba went very close to shore three months after her release, and is about 30km north of where Yoshi, the loggerhead female, spent a few days very close to shore early in January last year.
Oddly enough, Noci decided there and then to turn around, and spent New Year’s Day about 50km west of Lambert’s Bay. He is about 42km west of Elands Bay 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 a day.
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 December 20 last year, 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 communication 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 were unusually lovely and warm.
By December 29 she had started moving north again and passed St Helena Bay on New Year’s Day. She came within 10km of Noci, who was heading back down the coast at the time.
She is currently about 22km south-west of Lamberts Bay - swinging past the great NSRI crew and about 29km north-east 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 a day.
Yoshi: She has been back in the ocean for 383 days and has covered 9500km, even though she is a mere 70km east of where she found herself on January3 last year.
She has maintained a very good pace of 25km a 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: She has been back in the ocean for 301 days and is currently about 380km north-west of the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean - 1650km west of Oranjemund.
Pemba has now travelled more than 11900km - an impressive 39.5km a day. She has slowed down over the last few weeks but is still using the currents to her advantage, and finds herself in 24.5°C water at the moment. She is a third of the way across the Atlantic Ocean towards Brazil.
To make a donation towards the aquarium’s turtle rescue and rehabilitation efforts, visit:
Musson is a Two Oceans Aquarium curator