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Tracking our Turtles: Awesome ocean travellers

By Talitha Noble-Trull
- Turtles, Conservation, Marine Protected Areas, Foundation, Blog
Tracking our Turtles: Awesome ocean travellers

It’s been a month since we’ve heard from our favourite ocean travellers… turtles Bheni, Nobomvu, Turbo, and Pan (and their satellite tags) all have exciting news for us.

Let’s hear more from Talitha Noble-Trull, Conservation Manager at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation’s Turtle Conservation Centre.

Bheni, the green turtle

Our Indian Ocean traveller is currently 1 500km southeast of Madagascar and 5 000km from Mainland Australia. For his first three months at sea, we could see that Bheni was utilising the ocean currents as he moved eastward into the Indian Ocean.

On the 5th of March, this changed as Bheni left these currents and started moving north-eastward, swimming much more actively and following the ridgeline of the Southwest Indian Seamounts.

This particular ridge line where Bheni is currently swimming is quite complex in its phytoplankton composition, biogeochemistry, and overall productivity. This is because it is a transition zone from sub-Antarctic to sub-tropical ocean conditions. Overall, this transition zone is associated with concentrations of both phyto- and zooplankton, which means that there is likely to be increased food opportunities for Bheni here!

It is remarkable to think that Bheni has travelled 6 500km in 121 days, an average of 53.7km per day! He’s nice and warm in waters of about 21°C and the depth of the ocean here is just short of 4 000m.

Bheni April angled

Nobomvu, the loggerhead turtle

Our darling Red Lady, Nobomvu, has been doing some real twists and turns, exploring both the near and offshore waters of the Western Cape. She is hanging out in water that is 18°C and just 100km away from the coast.

Like Bheni, she has also been using the currents to move more efficiently and in the last few weeks has been moving with the circular currents of water off the coast of Saldanha Bay.

As seen on the map, Nobomvu has also just passed around the outside of South Africa’s smallest marine protected area (MPA) – the Benguela Mud MPA. This MPA exists especially to protect the delicate and endangered mud habitats on the West Coast.

Since her release 110 days ago, Nobomvu has travelled 4 550km, an average of a full marathon per day, a remarkable achievement for a turtle that could barely use her flippers just a year and a half ago. Well done, strong and brave Nobomvu!

Bomvu April

Turbo, the green turtle

Since his release 16 months ago, Turbo has been on quite a journey!

We have enjoyed watching him swim northward into Namibia since October 2023 and have been intrigued by his southern and westerly movements that have characterised 2024 thus far.

Turbo is almost 600km offshore from Luderitz, just 300km east of the Walvis Ridge and not far north of some incredible sea mounts. This tells us that Turbo may be food-motivated in his movements, as these underwater mountains and ridges are usually areas of greater upwelling and therefore nutrients and food.

Currently, Turbo is in water that is a toasty 21°C and 5 000m in depth!

Turbo April

Pan, the loggerhead turtle

Our sweet little Pan was released two years and 10 months ago! It is quite remarkable that we are still able to track him – as a young turtle, Pan’s growing shell could have shed the tag by now.

The long attachment of his tag compared to his buddies Caddy and Donny (released at the same time as a part of a national project) is likely linked to the cooler temperatures that he is experiencing. Not only do these temperatures reduce the speed of algae growing on his tag, but they also reduce his rate of growth, which means the tag can stay attached for longer.

Since his release, Pan has travelled 12 100km, a consistent 19km per day! The water temperature he finds himself in is 21°C.

He is currently 600km offshore from Luderitz and only 80km south of Turbo. Like Turbo, he is not utilising surface currents but is exploring the vicinity of sea mounts. His movements might therefore also be motivated by food!

Pan April

We are always so proud to see the tracks of our travelling turtles! It is an incredibly special thing to see the ocean progress of turtles who arrived at the Turtle Conservation Centre cold, weak, and injured. Each of these turtles had a unique rehabilitation journey, and it is heart-warming to see them bravely exploring the big, wide ocean!

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