Pan, Donny and Caddy are three sea turtles that were recently released along different parts of the South African coastline, after successful rehabilitation under the care of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. Each of these turtles has been fitted with a satellite tracking tag, which will allow us (and you) to follow their ocean journeys and see where these three incredible animals go - providing valuable information for the conservation of this species in South Africa.

Did you miss their release? Catch up on the story here.

Where do turtles go after they've been released? Let's find out! Credit: Damien Fredericks

Follow the turtles

3 August 2022 - Week three! 

It’s been 3 weeks of our travelling turtles and in the last week our trio have travelled just over 2000 km, that’s 3799km since release! Head over to our blog to read in more detail about their movements.

Donny: Since her release 21 days ago Donny has done some good travelling. After spending her first week exploring the coastline of Durban and the shallower waters, she snuck into the current and spent her second week zooming down into the Western Cape. On day 13 Donny started swimming cross current in a south-easterly direction and out of the Agulhas current. She has spent the last 7 days slowly swimming across the warm current and closer to the coastal waters of the Garden Route. Donny is swimming quite actively; her average speed has decreased from 3.3 km/hr (current assisted) to 2.9 km/hr. To date, Donny has covered 1482 km, sent 123 transmissions and is currently in water less than 100 m deep and a slightly cooler 15-18 degrees Celsius.

 

Donny's tracks on 2 August 2022. 
 

Caddy: It has been great fun watching Caddy follow in the footsteps of Donny and ride the almighty Agulhas current! After 14 days of Eastern Cape loving, Caddy decided the coastal life wasn’t for him and popped into the warm fast water of the Agulhas current. Within 4 days Caddy had travelled 580 km, totalling 1702 km and averaging a speed of 3.4 km/hr!

Caddy is clearly enjoying the ride. Having popped out of the slowing, southerly turning warm current, Caddy entered a warm adjacent eddy and continued "going with the flow". This particular flow has been nice and warm, his water temp is sitting above 20 degrees Celsius and with a depth of about 450 m.

Caddy's tracks on 2 August 2022. 
 

Pan: Since his release 17 days ago Pan is proving that consistency is key as he continues his west coast missions. Having almost reached the latitude of Lamberts Bay 10 days post-release, Pan turned around and has spent the last week swimming in a southerly direction against the surface currents.

Pan has been moving at a speed of about 1.5 km/hr, slightly faster than the surface currents (which are averaging about 1.3km/hr). Whilst this is a bit slower than Donny and Caddy, Pan is accomplishing 36 km/day and has racked up a good 615 km in the last 17 days.

Donny and Caddy have both gone in very different directions since having reached the southerly end of the Agulhas, it will be fascinating to see how they independently decide to move in the week to come.

 

27 July 2022 - Week two done!

Cumulatively, our three released turtles have travelled 1 757km in the last 14 days and what a treat it has been to track them, as they have all exhibited very different movements out at sea.

Donny's tracks on 26 July 2022.

Donny: Donny has been having the ride of her life! Her first few days back at sea were spent close inshore, but on her seventh day, she headed towards the warm current. In her second week at sea, she has exhibited a real need for speed, covering 1 121km and crossing two provincial borders!

The Agulhas Current is fast, with surface currents up to 3.5km/h. Donny’s average speed has almost matched this at 3.3km/h, so she is really riding the current and letting it carry her along - "rip it, roll it, punch it, dude!"

The water Donny is currently in is brilliantly warm, sitting between 26-29 degrees Celsius and a remarkably deep 3 800m as she stays on the edge of the continental shelf.

It is going to be so interesting to see what Donny decides to do once the Agulhas Current slows down!

Caddy's tracks on 26 July 2022.

Caddy: Caddy has enjoyed exploring the Eastern Cape coastline. After an initial journey north towards East London, Caddy decided to move east into the Agulhas Current and ride it south towards Port Alfred, travelling at a similar speed to the current (a calm 1.0km/h). In the last five days, Caddy has been heading in a northerly direction (carried by the coastal surface currents) and has been hanging out near Hamburg for the past two days. The water here is about 78m deep and between16-20 degrees Celsius.

Caddy really does seem to be enjoying his time back at sea having covered 321km in the last 14 days since release. His strategy appears to include conserving his energy and taking all opportunities to stop and smell the sea air - good for you Caddy!

Pan's tracks on 26 July 2022.

Pan: Pan has been a remarkable trooper in the 12 days since his release, covering a strong 315km.

The current is quite slow up the West Coast, averaging about 0.2km/hm and yet Pan is swimming substantially faster at about 1.1km/h. He is smartly following the surface currents as he moves northwards in water that is about 15 degrees Celsius.

While turtles enjoy warmer water, they have a remarkable ability to withstand colder temperatures, as many of our past tracked turtles have shown. 

20 July 2022 - The first week!

"This has certainly been an interesting few days!" says Talitha Noble, Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation Conservation Manager.

Donny: Donny's first transmission came through about 16km from the release site and she decided to head straight north. On her first day post-release, she covered about 25km, which we thought was quite impressive, especially because she was swimming straight into the surface current. The following day she veered in a north-westerly direction and moved much closer to shore, covering about 35km cross-current all the way to Sheffield Beach. It is always incredible to observe how these turtles calibrate and orientate themselves once they have returned to their ocean home.

On the third day after release, Donny headed offshore again and covered a 25km cross-current before making a sharp right turn towards Durban. Day Four for her was a joy ride in the current. She covered about 40km, crossing her Day One track in the process. By Day Five she made her way to just outside Durban harbour and moved along the Durban coastal area over the next two days covering about 25km.

The water was between 20 – 21°C during the first six days of her journey, and the surface current was between 0.5 and 1.4km/h, so a nice gentle push if you are in it, and a manageable speed to swim against, as she clearly showed us. We are hoping that she will head off into the Agulhas Current and stay clear of the coastal hazards and shipping lanes near big ports.

Donny has covered approximately 158km since her release on 14 July 2022!

 

Caddy: Upon release Caddy decided to head straight back to East London and had a quick swim past Nahoon and Bonza Bay, covering a solid 26km. On Day Two he headed straight back out to sea, swimming cross-current for about 25km, before taking a sharp right turn and started moving towards Port Alfred. He was still just on the inside of the Agulhas Current, but with a great surface current of about 2 to 2.5km/h, he managed to cover 66km on Day Three and transmitted about 17km off Hamburg in the Eastern Cape.

On Day Four he continued to enjoy his "conveyer belt" journey in the faster surface current, and covered another 55km, but started heading towards shore. On Day Five he made another sharp right turn, and headed north, straight for Port Alfred. Water temperature changed along the way from about 21°C to 18°C which is still well within his preferred environmental temperature range.

Caddy has covered 199km since his release on 14 July 2022, and it is impressive to see how much a faster surface current contributes to the distance covered out at sea.

 

Pan: Pan wasted no time at all and headed north staying in a gentle 1km/h surface current. On Day One he covered an impressive 57km. On Day Two he continued heading north adding another 38km to his speedy start. He has been in the slightly bigger swell, with a bit of a north-westerly wind pushing from the side. He has also been in a colder water temperature of 16°C but has already done 95km, thus moving a lot faster on average per day compared to his friends in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

 

So, the race is on, and we will continue to guess and speculate where Donny, Caddy and Pan will travel next. 

It is lovely to see how they make use of the surface current, which is called smart swimming. Turtles usually only actively swim for about 2 hours a day, making use of ocean currents to move around with less effort. We can see that Pan and Caddy are both already good at making use of the currents, but Donny seems to have her own plans and schedule in mind.

Why is tracking young turtles so important?

There are a lot of reasons that the opportunity to track these three juvenile loggerheads off South Africa’s coastline is exciting:

  1. We have not been able to use satellite tags to track juvenile loggerheads before. This is the first time that the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation has had to keep loggerheads for extended rehabilitation and therefore allow them to grow large enough to carry a satellite tag.
  2. We have not done a simultaneous turtle release from different coastal locations and are interested to see if the release site impacts their movements.
  3. We haven’t intentionally collaborated on this broader national level before, and it is exciting to be working together as the key national organisations that rehabilitate turtles.
  4. We don’t know what’s going to happen! The first 10 years of a turtle’s life are known as the "Lost Years". We know very little about where they go or what they do - we are hoping to get a little glimpse of it with these guys!
Farewell Donny! Credit: Don Hunter

What are Pan, Donny and Caddy's stories?

Donny, Caddy and Pan are three loggerhead sea turtles that have spent the last two to three years undergoing rehabilitation in the care of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. In a collaborative effort, we teamed up with other aquariums along the South African coast to release them jointly. 

  • Donny was flown to Durban by The Bateleurs - Flying for the Environment - on 26 June 2022, tagged by SAAMBR and then released 30km ESE of Durban, right on the edge of the Agulhas Current on 14 July 2022.
  • Caddy was flown to Gqeberha by The Bateleurs - Flying for the Environment - on 26 June 2022 and tagged by BayWorld and Nelson Mandela University. Caddy was then driven to East London by the East London Aquarium for a release that took place on 14 July 2022 on the edge of the Agulhas Current.
  • Pan didn’t have to fly anywhere and remained at Cape Town's Two Oceans Aquarium and patiently waited for a release weather window beyond the Cape of Good Hope. Pan was tagged by the team at Two Oceans Aquarium for release that took place on 16 July 2022, almost 80km out of Hout Bay.

You can find the full stories of their releases (with beautiful photos) here.

Keep swimming strong, Pan! Credit: Lynton Burger

Each of these endangered turtles, and hundreds more, are rehabilitated in the hands of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation - work that is made possible with your support. If you'd like to support the Turtle Rehabilitation Programme, and help other turtles like Pan, Caddy and Donny return to the wild, you can adopt a turtle or find other ways to support here.

blog comments powered by Disqus