Three days before Christmas, the Turtle Conservation Centre saw a day they thought might never come – Nobomvu, the loggerhead turtle, being released back into the ocean after two hard years of rehabilitation. A few weeks before, Bheni the green turtle was released into De Hoop Marine Protected Area! Let's hear more about Nobomvu and Bheni from Talitha Noble, Conservation Manager at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation's Turtle Conservation Centre.
The turtles' journey so far:
Three days before Christmas, the Turtle Conservation Centre saw a day they thought might never come – Nobomvu, the loggerhead turtle, being released back into the ocean after two hard years of rehabilitation, healthy and rearing to go.
During the boat trip out to the deep, warm water of the Agulhas Current, Nobomvu could tell that something exciting was coming, showing unrest and agitation as the ocean spray splattered her soft little nose.
Finally, helped off her bright yellow stretcher by the Turtle Conservation Centre team, Nobomvu dived into the water! Unlike most larger turtles the team has released, Nobomvu didn't zoot off immediately. For a few moments, our Red Lady took some deep breaths and hung out at the surface, allowing us one last goodbye as she reacquainted herself with her ocean home. A few strokes later, she was off with the quiet power of a healthy female loggerhead.
So, what has Nobomvu been up to since her release?
Initially, Nobomvu used the currents and winds to head west for six days before continuing in a southerly direction with a bit more speed.
A gentle surface current runs south along the western edge of the Agulhas Bank, a broad, shallow part of the southern African continental shelf. Nobomvu decided to stick to this line as she travelled along the edge of the continental shelf. Does this remind you of another special turtle (hint: Bob, the green turtle) who also stayed on the edge of the continental shelf?
On her southern journey, Nobomvu swam through one of South Africa’s 42 Marine Protected Areas (MPA): The Brown Bank Corals. This MPA is made up of three patches of sea floor that hold fossilised corals and bottlebrush soft corals. It is also an important spawning ground for hake, which the MPA protects and maintains the economic benefits of this valuable fishery.
Currently, Nobomvu is 150km south of Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa! The water temperature is a warm 21°C, with a depth of about 400m. She has travelled an impressive 757km!
Nobomvu saw the new year roll in as she was swimming southward – surely, excited about all the ocean adventures that 2024 will bring!
Since his release 27 days ago, Bheni has been on a mission!
His De Hoop explorations didn't last long: After two weeks in the MPA, Bheni started moving eastward up the coast. Upon reaching Jongensfontein, he decided to catch the southward moving current.
This swift current gave him some speed, and he spent the week between Christmas and New Year moving in a south-westerly direction. The New Year rolled in as Bheni was just 30km offshore from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa!
Our special green turtle has continued to enjoy this current, riding it as it moved slightly closer inshore and west, towards Cape Town!
Aside from De Hoop MPA where he was released, Bheni has also swum through the Agulhas Mud MPA. As the name might suggest, this protected area is a mud flat, a critically endangered ecosystem which has been historically exploited by trawling and oil exploration. This safe area is also a refuge for the Agulhas sole.
Right now, Bheni is about 60km southwest of Gaansbaai and about 140km north of Nobomvu! He has travelled 584km and is in 21°C water.
How exciting to be starting the year with four bright turtle travellers: Pan, Turbo, Nobomvu and Bheni. We look forward to tracking their ocean journeys!
We are so proud of our travelling turtles - not only are they proving themselves with their incredible journeys, but they are also making invaluable contributions to turtle research in South Africa! The ultimate goal for all of the turtles undergoing rehabilitation with our Turtle Conservation Centre is release, and it is heart-warming to follow along on their adventures!
Catch up on all turtle news
At the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation's Turtle Conservation Centre, we rescue, rehabilitate, and release turtles, each of which has a uniquely inspiring story.
If you missed out on any turtle tales, you can catch up here:
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