You've definitely heard of Yoshi - she's the amazing loggerhead turtle that was released from the Two Oceans Aquarium two years ago and has gone on to become an international celebrity - her ocean journey since release has become the longest-ever recorded journey of any tracked animal ever. That's right, this "cold-blooded" reptile has outdone the journey of any marine animal. That's pretty amazing!
Now, speculation grows that Yoshi may finally have returned to her natal beach to lay eggs of her own...
Please help turtles like Yoshi by joining the Yoshi Challenge: https://www.givengain.com/cc/yoshichallenge
Yoshi is currently steaming ahead with her incredible record-breaking journey and is a mere 66 kilometres off of the Western Australia coast. This officially puts Yoshi in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Australia - which is a great place to be, as she is now protected under Australian law which places a strong emphasis on sea turtle conservation. This is also the first time Yoshi has officially visited a country outside of Africa - her passport now gets an Australian stamp right next to South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.
She has travelled 37 000 kilometres in the 26 months since her release in December 2017. Throughout her journey, Yoshi has averaged and maintained a swimming distance of 48 kilometres per day. The latest tracking data shows that she has slowed down slightly and is now clocking in at about 46 kilometres per day. At this stage, we can only speculate why - perhaps she is preparing to mate? However, during the past two years, Yoshi has moved into coastal areas a number of times to feed (typical Yoshi), so this may simply be another pitstop along her journey.
Yoshi appears to be heading towards Point Samson, a small fishing town in Western Australia's Pilbara region - a region that is home to some of Australia's most famous turtle nesting beaches. The area is also home to several biodiversity-rich snorkelling hotspots, like Honeymoon Cove. All this leads us to a lot of speculation - has Yoshi indeed come "home to nest" or is she simply after the tasty treats on these amazing reefs?
She has navigated her way along and across the Rowley Shelf, which is a range of beautiful atolls with incredible species diversity. She currently happens to be near to Mermaid Reef, which sounds like a lovely place to pass while on honeymoon (or at least on your way to Honeymoon Cove).
With the very real possibility of the battery in Yoshi's tag running out soon, we are incredibly excited that Western Australian conservation and research officials are on standby to meet her if she nests on one of these beaches - an amazing opportunity for her satellite tag to be replaced so that we can all continue to follow her amazing migration. The tag Yoshi is currently fitted with is nearing the end of its expected service life, and in the time that it has been active, we have received well over 20 000 messages from it. According to South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts division, who we have worked closely with to monitor Yoshi's travels, this is the longest animal journey that has ever been recorded using a satellite tag, both by distance and duration.
Trust Yoshi to break even more records!
Whatever Yoshi decides to do, she has truly become the world's greatest ocean ambassador who has softened the hearts of everyone she has encountered, from the Japanese fishermen who handed her in at Cape Town for care back in 1997 and the millions of people who saw her at the Two Oceans Aquarium, to the growing community of scientists and passionate people across the globe that have been following her over two-year journey at see - it's easy to see why Yoshi is the greatest turtle of all time!
Yoshi's legacy in Cape Town
When Yoshi was released from the Two Oceans Aquarium in 2017, Conservation Coordinator Talitha Noble commented that "she has left a Yoshi-sized hole in the Ocean Exhibit." We'll we're pleased to say that although Yoshi has left a very large hole, we've been able to fill it with a very large way to honour her...
Inspired by the successful rehabilitation and release of Yoshi the loggerhead, the Two Oceans Aquarium redoubles its turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts. This has culminated in a fully-fledged Turtle Rescue Programme within the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, the non-profit, public benefit partner of the Two Oceans Aquarium. This programme successfully rehabilitates and releases hundreds of endangered sea turtles each year, and works closely with communities and through integrated educational programmes to instil a sense of pride and protection of the ocean in tens of thousands of children yearly.
Yoshi has also inspired a fundraising campaign called the #YoshiChallenge. “We are asking people to look at the epic journey that Yoshi has undertaken and help us to help more turtles like her. Through the #YoshiChallenge we would like to honour Yoshi’s journey and raise funds to rescue more turtles and create the next generation of ocean champions through education,” says Maryke Musson. You can contribute to the #YoshiChallenge here.
About Yoshi's journey
Yoshi the loggerhead turtle arrived in Cape Town in July 1997 on a Japanese fishing vessel as a small 2-kilogram juvenile with a very distinctive injury on the side of her shell. The captain of the fishing vessel named her Yoshitaro, after the cook onboard who was rather small in stature himself. He contacted the Two Oceans Aquarium and asked for help. The Aquarium took the turtle in and pretty soon, staff and visitors to the Aquarium alike, had fallen in love with this feisty little turtle.
Through working with Yoshi, over the years Aquarium staff gained confidence in handling sea turtles and general turtle husbandry and started caring for stranded turtle hatchlings as well as occasional larger stranded and injured turtles.
Over her 20 years at the Aquarium, Yoshi grew to a formidable 180 kilograms and was very aptly known as the "Queen of the Exhibit". At approximately 25 years of age, Aquarium staff knew she was maturing and her breeding instincts started kicking in. After much research and discussion, it was decided that it would be in her best interest to be released. The next 18 months were spent preparing her for life back in the ocean, which included daily exercise to increase her fitness levels.
On 16 December 2017, the Two Oceans Aquarium released Yoshi back into the ocean. Weighing 183kg, Yoshi was released 27 nautical miles south-west of Hout Bay in 20.6°C water. Her journey took her along the west coast of Africa to Namibia and Angola, where she spent some time. She then turned around and headed east past Cape Town, and is now officially in Australian waters.