Talitha Noble, Conservation Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, gave a heartfelt speech at Bob the green turtle's farewell event. Noble spoke about Bob's extraordinary impact on the Aquarium community. He was released on 27 January 2023 and has been enjoying his ocean explorations.
Small actions can lead to big change. Small actions can ignite hope. This is the Flipper Effect.
Every day we take small actions, their consequences often eluding us. But sometimes, the little actions of many different individuals line up perfectly to be impactful and to create a beautiful story that embodies hope. For the last 8 years, Bob has been the gentle, kind embrace welcoming us to the Aquarium's underwater wonderland. His deep, kind eyes watched us walk by; his pleasure-filled bum scratches made us smile.
On the 6th of November 2014, Bob's story with humans started at De Hoop Nature Reserve when an angler (Jeff Slater) and researchers (DFFE), working on a fish tagging project, took the action to rescue a stranded sea turtle after wild stormy white water had washed him ashore.
Initial rehabilitation for Bob was serious and intense as Bob had fractured and broken the bones on the underside of his shell (16.6 kg, CCL 54cm, CCW 51cm). This wound was painful and infected. It led to blood infection and septicaemia throughout his body which reached his brain and caused central blindness and a depressed mental state. Bob's situation was life or death; his future uncertain.
For many months, the team (Dr Georgina Cole, Kevin Spiby and Nic Nicholls) cared for this critical patient, regularly placing a tube down his throat into his stomach to provide necessary nutrition but no improvement in Bob's condition was being observed and hope was waning.
Seriously considering euthanasia, the vet went to conduct a final neurological exam on Bob and noticed that his little eyes were slowly following her fingers. A small action! She got some slimy squid and dangled it in front of him like a carrot in front of a donkey. Slowly moving the food closer to him she gently put the soft piece of protein in his mouth, and with that, Bob noticed and voluntarily swallowed his first piece of food in many months, and a corner was turned.
One early morning a ghostly collection of plastic and balloon ribbons was floating in Bob's pool. Balloons and bags; human creations are mistaken for natural and nutritious food. It was not enough that Bob had to fight the battles that nature had dealt him, humankind had dealt him more.
As time progressed, broken bones healed, and the world became visible to Bob again.
It was noticed though that Bob was different, whilst a fully functional turtle; eating, pooping, and diving, he did not display the characteristics one might expect from a wild animal.
- Where turtles tend to excitedly zoot, Bob casually cruised.
- Where a sub-adult green might bite, Bob would let himself get bitten.
- Where a wild animal would attempt escape when handled, Bob would enjoy being touched.
And so, concerns about his ability to one day survive in the wild grew, and yet, trialling solutions required full-time focused efforts, which were not yet available.
But these years were special, Bob got to grow, and grow big!
He revelled in the awe and interest he received from people young and old.
He dug his back flippers in and shut his mouth tight as his carers creatively tried to persuade him to like veg.
He got his first taste of being a big brother to younger Sandy and Moya, a role he has played and perfected many times since.
And then finally, in February 2021, a special set of eyes (Alexandra Panagiotou) started observing Bob's behaviours and patterns, watching his strokes, monitoring his breaths, and noting his napping spots. Many small observations lead to us being able to put together a plan that we hoped would have a big impact.
The introduction of change began. Food became a puzzle- navigating obstacles to get to sea lettuce, swimming laps for a broccoli reward, tracking cucumber through a tunnel. Many small acts of patience, diligence, and encouragement took place as Bob started to become a different creature.
- Where turtles tend to excitedly zoot, Bob started zooming.
- Where a sub-adult green might bite, Bob started curiously nipping and even hunting.
- Where a wild animal would attempt escape when dealt with, Bob started becoming quite impossible to handle
8 years of action had led to the point where Bob had remembered how to be wild.
So began the planning of Bob's journey home.
Much like his rescue and rehabilitation, Bob's release is going to be the sum of many different acts of love.
Bob will enjoy a first-class flight in a small private plane, made possible by a passionate pilot and The Bateleurs.
Bob will pitstop with our friends, colleagues, and collaborators at SAAMBR for a few final days of observation.
Bob will be tagged with one of the most advanced satellite tags on the market, thanks to the many aching blisters endured by a committed and resilient runner.
And then, finally, Bob will get to move down the beach, a journey reminiscent of his birth, towards the familiar warm blue swell.
In the time he has spent with us, Bob has had a greater impact and been more meaningful than we realize. He has:
- Provided the ‘aha’ moment for people grappling with their career paths (Jamie Yip)
- Fuelled passionate and powerful physical feats (Karoline Hanks)
- Been a muse, a protagonist in stories, and an inspiration for creatives and creators (Tracy Whitehead, Ewan Seymour, Ilse Jenkinson, Leon Venter, Dylan Trull)
- Sparked and ignited action from ambassadors and eco-warriors (Kiera King)
- Been a quiet confidant and gentle friend for people who felt a bit lost and alone
- Gazed through the acrylic of the exhibit and looked at each of us, seen right into our souls, and dwelt there for a bit.
Bob's journey has been a continuous dance between the resilience and persistence of a tenacious turtle and the actions of love by many different people.
What a story of perseverance, what an act of teamwork, what a celebration of hope.
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