Turtle which returned to the ocean after 16 years has already travelled 180km

Since her release, green turtle Wasabi has travelled over 180km. | Saambr

Since her release, green turtle Wasabi has travelled over 180km. | Saambr

Published Jun 2, 2024


Durban — Green turtle Wasabi has been living on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

Thursday marked a week since Wasabi returned to the ocean after 16 years of rehabilitation at uShaka Sea World and the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Before Wasabi was released, she was fitted with both a satellite and an acoustic tag to track her travels and follow her post-release journey.

South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr) spokesperson Ann Kunz said after Wasabi was released at Nonoti Beach, past Blythedale, she has steadfastly made her way northwards, a pattern they have seen in a number of the green turtles they released over the past few years.

“From the satellite pings on the map, you can see that she has remained close to the coastline. This is normal behaviour for green turtles her age as they forage and feed along the local reefs,” Kunz said.

“In the last week, our beautiful Wasabi has travelled over 180km!” exclaimed Kunz.

After 14 years in the care of uShaka Sea World staff, Wasabi, a green turtle, was released back into the ocean. From left to right, uShaka Sea World aquarists, Jamie-Lee Swartz, Kerry Lavender and Malini Pather bid Wasabi farewell moments before she entered the ocean at Nonoti Beach. | Linda Ness.

Wasabi was rescued as a juvenile after being found stranded in a Muizenberg rock pool. She had an injury to her right front flipper which developed into arthritis. She was transferred from Two Oceans Aquarium to uShaka Sea World in Durban in the hope that the warmer water in KZN would be kind to her arthritic flipper.

Over the years, the team caring for her noticed that slowly but surely she was making progress in her ability to move her injured flipper. Her most recent swimming physical assessment showed that she had regained full mobility of her right front flipper and was able to sustain strong swimming strokes.

Kunz said planning a turtle release is multifaceted and involves and hinges on many considerations including a medical clearance, permits and in Wasabi’s case – a costly satellite tag. The satellite tag gives insight into her post-release journey.

When Wasabi was moved from the Two Oceans Aquarium and flown to Durban. | Tracey Adams

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