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, we 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.
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 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.
- Check out the incredible photos and emotional moments as we say farewell to Sandy, Noci, Moya and the 2018 rescued hatchlings in an inspiring release moment.
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!
- Be sure to see Yoshi's epic release story and find out how, after 20 years, we were able to return her to the ocean safely.
- Yoshi swam more than 8 600kn in her first year (that's to Angola and back). Be sure to check out her tracks for year one.
Last, but certainly not least, is 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 her ocean exodus - a journey that continues to inspire.
15 April 2019
Yoshi has now covered 21 156 km over the last 484 days, that is 44 km per day! Imagine running just over a marathon every day for 16 months! Her speed averages 1.8 km/h which is fast and we're convinced all that training, good meals, love and attention prepared her very well for life back in the ocean.
It now appears that she is well on her way towards Australia. She is about 1 300 km south of Madagascar and swimming along the Southwest Indian Ridge which bisects the ocean between Africa and Antarctic. This area is most certainly a good feeding ground as well. She is in a very mild 19°C water temperature in a north current with a northerly wind pushing quite strongly along the surface too.
Yoshi’s tag is serving us very well and has sent through 13 889 messages with 3 004 satellite passes. Her tag is set at 30-second intervals, which is preserving some battery power. The tag can only transmit when she surfaces and is in range of a passing satellite.
The nearest loggerhead turtle nesting sites are still those along our northern Natal coastline and Mozambique, but Australia and Oman both see many Loggerhead females nesting along their beaches every year. At this stage, Yoshi remains an ocean explorer, and only time will tell whether she will head to her original home beach while still being tracked (which of course will be incredible).
Pemba, the rehabilitated olive ridley turtle, is continuing her explorations in the Atlantic Ocean. Olive ridley sea turtles are smaller than loggerhead and green turtles and are found in the tropical and warm waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are not as common in the Atlantic Ocean, however, there are nesting sites along Angola, Congo and Gabon. Pemba was released off Mabibi in KwaZulu-Natal 402 days ago and has since travelled 15 839 km. That is an impressive 39 km/day – almost as fast as Yoshi!
We initially thought Pemba was heading towards Brazil, but over the last month she has spent quite a bit of time near St. Helena and seems to be heading for Angola now. Currently, she is 392 km north of St. Helena and about 1 916 km west of Angola with 3 400 km between her and Brazil.
She is swimming around some well-known table-mounts, also known as guyots. These are isolated volcanic sea mounts at least 900 meters tall. The South Atlantic has 43 such guyots. Again – these areas are rich fishing grounds and there should be plenty of food for her. Olive ridleys are mostly carnivorous, living on jellyfish, crustaceans, tunicates with the occasional bit of algae.
It will be quite incredible if Pemba heads for the nesting sites along the west coast of Africa. Olive ridley females have an average clutch size of about 116 eggs and incubation lasts 45 to 51 days, but can take up to 70 days in poor weather conditions. At the moment Pemba is in a lovely warm 28°C with a very gentle east current but a rather strong south-east surface wind.
Pemba’s satellite tag has passed 2034 satellites and has sent through 20 962 messages. This tag was set to send a message every 15 seconds and that is why we have received more data on Pemba than Yoshi.
Noci, the beautiful and wild-looking loggerhead turtle, and only male sea turtle we have tagged to date, has been back in the ocean for 115 days. He did not have a long stay at our rehabilitation facility and it was a pleasure to release him back into the ocean in December 2018. Noci has travelled 6 600 km since his release – that is a very impressive 57 km per day! Imagine if he keeps this up!
He has impressed us with his travels, exploring close in-shore on the West Coast before heading back down into the south Atlantic and having a good look at various seamounts. Noci is certainly going with the flow and making good use of the currents. He has followed some of Pemba’s tracks and has crossed paths with Yoshi too.
He is currently about 870 km southwest of Cape Town near the Cape Basin seamount. He is in a very nice and mild 20°C water temperature in a circular current with a very strong southeasterly wind.
We have seen 1628 satellite passes from Noci and we have received 11 309 messages from his tracking device. Noci’s tag also registered depths of 130m – which is a very impressive diving depth. Noci is an incredible turtle all round and we are so happy he is doing so well back in the big blue ocean.
Last, but certainly not least is our West Coast girl, Sandy the green turtle, who has been spending most of her time between Elands Bay and Lambert's Bay. After a very long recovery at the Aquarium due to a serious boat strike injury, she is yet to decide where to head off to – which we are hoping will be sooner than later as green turtles do prefer warmer water.
Sandy has travelled 1 506 km since her release 115 days ago – which is a lot of swimming between her two favourite West Coast towns (also definite favourite spots for many surfers). She is in a bit of an on-shore wind at the moment and a very gentle north current and the water is a chilly 14°C. Sea turtles can cope well in cold water and just slow everything down a bit – but most certainly prefer more temperate and warmer water.
We have seen 766 satellite passes with 6 247 messages received – so she is certainly staying active!
8 March 2019
Pemba: This olive ridley has been travelling the oceans for 365 days! This true seafarer was released on 8 March 2018 and has had quite a remarkable journey. Since January 2019, she has been exploring what seems to be the middle of the ocean, and we believe she is enjoying spending time in areas offering good food supply. She is currently 1 917km west of Africa and about 251km south of St Helena Island. Just another 3 500km to go and she will be off the coast of Brazil, where many olive ridley turtles breed. She is in a very gentle north-easterly current at the moment and in warm sea temperatures of about 25°C.
Over the last year, Pemba has travelled an impressive 14 381km! That is averaging 39.4km per day. Her fastest month was the month of release when she was cruising down the Agulhas Current at a very fast pace of 145 km per day. September 2018 was a rather slow holiday month, where she moved about 25.5km per day – exploring and feeding along the Walvis Ridge. She picked up the pace again in February 2019 – moving around and about south of St Helena – at an average speed of 66km/day.
What a fantastic achievement for a rescued turtle who for a very long time could not even dive under the surface of her rehabilitation tank. Thanks to the incredible care and dedication of the animal health and veterinary teams at uShaka Seaworld and Two Oceans Aquarium, Pemba continues to enjoy the open ocean and inspire us all with her determination.
Yoshi: 447 days back in the ocean and more than 18 500km covered. Yoshi has averaged 39.4km/day since her release and has crossed various borders, swam in various directions, still continues to swim against the currents, still visiting areas offering a lot of food and even visited the new Marine Protected Area around the Protea Seamounts. What a journey.
Right now it appears as if Yoshi is swimming towards Australia – where Loggerhead turtles do nest. She may also choose to head north to Madagascar or Mozambique - we're as excited as you are to find out!
She is about 1 700km south of Madagascar and 1 850km east of Cape Town. Only 6 700km to go to get to Australia! We fondly think back of all the swimming training we did with Yoshi – and it is obviously paying off.
Noci: Noci and Sandy have both been back in the ocean for 78 days, and Noci, the male loggerhead, has racked up the fastest average speed of all our tagged turtles. He has covered a very impressive 4 122km since release in December, with an average pace of 53km/day. Noci headed up the West Coast straight after release and went to go and check out the mineral-rich areas off the Salt River estuary before turning around and heading back south. He then crossed paths with Yoshi around the Protea and Simpson Seamounts before heading into the south Atlantic currents and eddies, pretty much where Pemba did her roundabouts. Noci is being pushed by a rather strong southerly wind at the moment and is in a very acceptable temperate 20°C. This wild one is doing so well and it is really exciting having the opportunity of following a male loggerhead turtle.
Sandy: Since her release, Sandy has spent most of her time moving between Elands Bay and Lambert’s bay. We can’t help thinking that the presence of our two surfer dudes, Deen and Kevin, on release day somehow contributed to her choosing to go hang out in Elands Bay.
She has now covered 1 223km, at an average pace of about 16km/day. Bearing in mind that the water temperature has ranged between a chilly 9°C and 18°C, it is rather impressive that she has kept such a good swimming speed.
The fantastic crew at the Lambert’s Bay NSRI and the fisheries officers from DAFF Elands Bay have all be on standby should Sandy decide to walk out to rather warm up on the beach – but she is still swimming strongly and sending frequent transmissions which shows that she is doing well, even in the cold. We are hoping that she will start heading off sooner than later – as there really is an entire ocean to explore. However, I have heard from many die-hard West Coast locals that once you are there it is hard to leave. Let’s see where she will head next!
4 February 2019
Yoshi: While we celebrated the declaration of our 20 new Marine Protected Areas in South Africa, our incredible ocean traveller Yoshi the loggerhead turtle decided to visit the very first protected underwater mountain range in South Africa – the Southeast Atlantic Seamounts – one of the new MPAs. She is currently swimming around the Protea Seamount, about 246 kilometres south of Cape Point. Seamounts offer fantastic biological diversity and productivity – which means a lot of food for Yoshi! This area is also an aggregation site for various species of shark, seabirds, tuna and other turtles, such as the leatherback turtles.
Yoshi has swum over 10 000 kilometres (or possibly even as much as 14 000 kilometres if we look at every "zig-zag") over the last 414 days . She swims between 25 and 36 kilometres per day on average. Her journey has taken her up the west coast of Africa, past Namibia into Angolan waters, where she decided to turn around in June 2018. She reached South African waters again in November 2018, and swam past Langebaan on New Year's Eve.
On 24 January she headed offshore after which she veered east and headed straight for the Southeast Atlantic Seamounts Marine Protected Area. She is in a gentle westerly current at 21°C, great conditions for having a good time on a rich feeding ground. There is a whole range of underwater mountains lying ahead of her – and the lovely warm Agulhas Current. Yoshi has proven to us all that she is a very strong swimmer, so swimming alongside this current should not slow her down much.
Sandy: Sandy, the green turtle that suffered a terrible boat propeller strike injury and stayed with us for two years, headed straight up the West Coast after her release and stayed around Jacob's Bay for a week until just before New Year's Eve. She then headed up to Elands Bay – and decided to stay right there for most of January!
This had us all rather concerned as the water is quite cold up there, but Sandy has since shown us that she is handling these conditions very well. She headed up to Lambert's Bay on a few occasions and is currently a good few kilometres off Lambert's Bay in an acceptable 16°C water temperature. Her transmissions have zig-zagged all over the show – and measurement of all her transmissions gives about 840 kilometres travelled. She is a feisty turtle, and we are sure she will find her way to warmer water once "surfed out".
A huge big thank you must go to the crew at the Lambert's Bay NSRI base who have kept an eye out for Sandy as well to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officials in Elands Bay. It has been absolutely heartwarming working with such caring people. Go Sandy go – time to find some warmer water.
Noci: Noci was the very first large male loggerhead turtle rehabilitated at the Aquarium - a very exciting opportunity to research loggerhead behaviour as most tagging projects are only able to observe females, as only females ever return to land where biologists can access them. Noci is doing really well and has travelled more than 1 200 kilometres since release.
He had a quick trip up the West Coast, before turning around and heading back to Cape Town in January. Noci has continued heading south and is now about 425 kilometres south of Cape Agulhas. He also crossed paths with Yoshi recently! Noci is in a very mild 21°C with a bit of a surface current pushing back against him (the tail end of the Agulhas Current). Go Noci go!
Pemba: Last but not least, Pemba, the olive ridley turtle rehabilitated in a joint effort by uShaka Sea World and Two Oceans Aquarium veterinary teams, has wasted no time and headed into the mighty Agulhas Current almost immediately after release. After some time exploring the Southern Ocean, Pemba headed up the West Coast to about Doringbaai before veering offshore into the Atlantic Ocean.
Pemba has since crossed the Walvis Ridge and is currently 1 906 kilometres west of the Namibian/Angolan border and 3 515 kilometres east of Brazil. She has travelled more than 12 700 kilometres! She has been back in the ocean for 333 days already and it looks like she is heading towards Brazil, where there are quite a few olive ridley turtle nesting sites (although it is still too early to be certain). She has a nice strong easterly wind behind her at the moment and is likely loving the 25°C water she finds herself in. Pemba was a challenging medical case – and it is lovely to see her crossing oceans!
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 kilometres 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!
How can you help?
The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation is spreading hope, healing and optimism by raising funds for stricken sea turtles. Help us reach our goal of R150 000 for this cause - together we can achieve more.