On Monday 20 November, the Two Oceans Aquarium welcomed a huge crowd of turtle-lovers, all of whom were there to celebrate the life of Yoshi the loggerhead turtle, and to send this gorgeous beauty off into the deep blue sea, to live long and prosper ... and hopefully make thousands of little Yoshis.
The Aquarium will release Yoshi a bit later this month. Yoshi first came to us in 1997 and has become one of the most iconic animals we’ve ever had the honour of displaying for the public. We’ve all grown extremely attached to her, but all signs are there that it is time to return her to the wild. Nothing will make us happier than to see this beloved animal thrive in the open ocean, even though the farewell will be bittersweet.
To provide her with the best possible send-off, we threw a soiree in Yoshi’s honour. VIPs, members, staff and friends of the Aquarium attended in their droves to help us pay respects to this legend.
Two Oceans Aquarium Conservation Coordinator Talitha Noble kicked off proceedings by giving our guests a bit of insider info on everything that happens through our turtle rehab and release programme. Along with Yoshi, 30 loggerhead hatchlings will also be released later this month after spending time in our rehab facility.
The evening also gave us the opportunity to give some of Yoshi’s oldest friends – those who’ve been there with her pretty much from the start, in one way or another – a special thank you in the form of a Yoshi photograph.
First up was former Two Oceans Aquarium CEO Dr Pat Garratt, who was Curator at the Aquarium back when Yoshi first arrived. He was ultimately the one who gave permission for Yoshi to stay with us after she was rescued off a fishing boat. Legend has it that he was hesitant to do so, as turtles are known to be very good as scratching acrylic. Like everyone else, Dr Pat eventually succumbed to Yoshi's charms.
Iain Robertson has arguably spent more time in the I&J Ocean Exhibit than anybody else. As our resident divemaster, Iain has formed a close bond with Yoshi, and Yoshi with him. We'd wager that Iain is Yoshi's best friend in the world.
I&J’s Business Insights Manager Robert Landmand who, together with his team at I&J has kept Yoshi – and all the animals at the Aquarium – fed on sustainably caught hake and bycatch squid.
Underwater photographer Geoff Spiby, who is responsible for a very large proportion of the most stunning Aquarium images you’ve ever seen, took one of the earliest known photographs of Yoshi:
He is also responsible for Kevin Spiby, who manages our turtle rehab and release facility … so Geoff deserves double the thanks from us!
National Sea Rescue Institute CEO Cleeve Robertson very generously serves as our dive doctor. And he’s promised that he and his team will keep an eye on Yoshi’s location (which we'll get via satellite tag) and will jump to the rescue should anything go wrong.
Animal Ocean’s Steven Benjamin has also taken several fantastic pictures of Yoshi, and has a been a great friend of the Aquarium’s for 20 years – just as long has Yoshi’s been with us.
Our guest of honour on the night was Dr George Hughes – a legendary turtle conservationist who was instrumental in helping loggerhead and leatherback turtle populations along our coast recover after record-low numbers in the 1960s. With his special brand of humour and his extraordinary knowledge, Dr Hughes delighted the crowd, all of whom had come to celebrate the life of turtles.
What would an event at the Aquarium be without divers and a cool banner (which was signed by our guests)?
Many of our staff members are coming to terms with the fact that this will be one of the last times they get to dive with Yoshi. Tickles are in order.
Here are some further impressions from this wonderful night. If these faces are anything to go by, Yoshi will be sorely missed indeed.