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.
24 October - It's time for an update on our terrific trio who are missioning their way around their blue ocean home.
Donny - Donny is continuing her leisurely coastal meander. After an initial few weeks of speed, swimming down the Agulhas current from Durban, Donny decided to change her pace and explore the coastline. She has spent the last 640km and 2 months working her way back up the coastline and is now at Hamburg in the Eastern Cape, close to the Kieskamma river. To date, Donny has travelled 2913km and has been averaging 28km a day. I wonder if she's planning on heading back into KZN?! Only time will tell.
Caddy - After 437 transmissions, 75 days and 2913km, Caddy's tag has stopped transmitting. Caddy's movements in the last two and a half months have been nothing short of impressive. After hanging around his release site in the Eastern Cape for a while, Caddy found the current and blasted south! Loving the speed, he kept in the warmer water and rode the eddies in the south Atlantic. Caddy has really wracked up the kilometres, averaging a whopping 46km per day! That's 5km faster than legendary Yoshi who averaged about 41 km a day. We don't doubt that Caddy is out there having the greatest adventures and even though we can't follow him anymore we are grateful for the 75 days of adventure we got to track!
Pan - Pan has been the most remarkable explorer! Continuing into the Atlantic Ocean after having solidly missioned up the West Coast, Pan is now 1000km offshore! He is a third of the way to St. Helena Island and a sixth of the way to Porto Alegre in South Brazil. Pan is also just over 300km from the Walvis Ridge, a 3000km long ocean ridge in the South Atlantic. Pan clearly likes adventure, but he is keeping a level head and smart swimming approach as he maintains a steady speed of about 1.2 km an hour (27 km/day).
4 October - Keep going!
Our turtles are moving swimmingly! Here's where they found themselves this week!
Donny - We love the coastal adventure that Donny has embarked on for the last six weeks! After being released in Durban, Donny hung around close to shore and got her bearings before riding the Agulhas current down our coastline and popping out southeast from Mosselbay. Donny then headed inshore towards DeHoop (to say hi to Litchi!) and has loved missioning up the coast ever since! Donny is just outside Nelson Mandela Bay in Gqeberha.To date Donny has travelled 2560km, is in water that is 17 degrees and is a mere 2km offshore.
Caddy - This ocean champion has travelled 3481km so far and is currently 600km offshore! After an initial cruise around the Gqeberha coastline he was released, Caddy missioned south in the Agulhas current and has spent the two months doing loops in the southern ocean. He is currently on the fringe between two weather systems in 18-degree water in a gentle current, though moving into the low-pressure system. It would be interesting to see if Caddy does venture into the low system, as this is a pretty stormy space (lots of rough seas and rainy weather). Caddy has been intentional in his movements and really displayed the smart swimming that turtles are known for so we have full confidence in his innate decision-making. The last transmission we received from Caddy was on the 26 September, we have our fingers crossed that more transmissions will come, but it is possible that the battery has died/ tag has fallen off. We will know for sure by the next update.
Pan - Our sweet Pan has been super consistent in his movement up the west coast and for the last month, in moving west. To date, he has travelled 2047km and is currently 556km offshore. Where Caddy was on the fringe between two weather systems, Pan is very definitely inside a high pressure. This means the ocean and winds are calm, the gentle current pushing him along nicely and the water temperate at 16 degrees.
20 September - 68 days and counting!
It has been a remarkable 68 days of turtle tracking! And in that time our trio have travelled a whopper 6 650km!
Donny, released near Durban on 13 July, didn't take long to find the Agulhas Current and whip down the South African coast, reliving her hatchling journey. But after a week of high-speed travel, Donny headed inshore towards De Hoop Nature Reserve. Donny then popped in to say "hi" to her old friend Litchi (a green turtle who also spent time in turtle rehab, was tagged and released and is now in the De Hoop area) and then slowly started making her way up along the coast.
The slower pace does seem to suit Donny and I have a suspicion that she is going to be checking out the waves in St Francis and J-Bay in the coming weeks!
Donny has travelled 2 115km since her release and is currently in water that is 18°. Go do some surfing Donny!
What a wild loopy journey Caddy has had to date, after initially hugging the coastline for a few days post-release in East London, Caddy entered the Agulhas current and rode it down the coast and then jumped off into warm eddies and is now in the south Atlantic Ocean.
Caddy is currently 640km offshore and for the last 19 days has been slightly cooler in water than he has been used to, averaging about 14 degrees. The South Atlantic can get a bit stormy, but currently, things are not too bad, with 12kt wind and 3.6m swell around her.
Looking forward to seeing you mission Caddy!
Pan - our West coast baby! After release, Pan missioned north along the West Coast pretty persistently. In the past week, Pan has been moving further offshore and now finds himself 365km into the Atlantic Ocean. It will be very interesting to see if Pan decides to head further into the Atlantic, or if he comes back closer to shore. Pan’s is currently in water which is 15°.
What an absolute privilege it is to be able to see these remarkable turtle movements, to continue our connection with these three special individuals and to let our imaginations go wild with the adventures that they are undertaking!
24 August - Week seven update!
Our three intrepid turtle travellers continue to surprise us with three vastly different journeys.
Donny was first to find the warm Agulhas Current and used this impressive ocean conveyer belt to get herself all the way from KwaZulu-Natal to the Western Cape. For the last two weeks, she has been on what appears to be a leisurely meander, exploring the coastal areas between Stilbaai and De Hoop. It is as if she is on a slow-paced, site-seeing holiday travelling down to the beautiful De Hoop MPA! This is a very special area with calmer and slightly warmer water, it acts as a Southern right whale nursery this time of the year and offers frequent sea turtle sightings. The ideal place for a little turtle holiday!
She also had a good look around at Cape Infanta and Witsand at the mouth of the Breede River, an area which would offer quite a lot of food to Donny. She has now returned to Stilbaai, another lovely holiday village also known as the "Bay of Sleeping Beauty" and it has a number of interesting and significant archaeological sites, including the ancient tidal fish traps and the nearby Blombos Cave which is recognised as the oldest known human settlement. The Stilbaai MPA is of course also a protected area and an ideal feeding ground for Donny, who has now travelled a total distance of 1 808km since her return to the ocean on 13 July. She does not seem to be too phased about using the currents and is swimming against a north-easterly wind in 16°C water. Her journey over the last two weeks definitely appears to be more of a fun, explore, eat and relax time.
Caddy on the other hand has gone global! He is about 486km south of Cape Point, and thus outside of the South African Exclusive Economic Zone, so he is now an international ocean citizen. Caddy has travelled a total of 2 116km since his release off East London on 13 July and seems to literally go with the flow (of the surface currents). He is moving from the Agulhas retroflexion zone to the Agulhas rings and doing exactly what we expect from a young turtle. It will be very interesting to see if he will be pushed back into the Agulhas return current. Caddy is also in about 17°C water, but it fluctuates between 16 and 19°C water depending on where he finds himself in those currents.
Pan is on a mission and is now in Northern Cape waters. He spent a bit of time exploring the area between Paternoster and Lambert's Bay, but decided to move slightly closer to shore and head north and is heading towards Hondeklipbaai. He has travelled 820km since his release off Cape Town on 16 July and is proving to be a Weskus local already. The water is a bit on the chilly side at about 14°C, but Pan seems to be managing well. He is also a smart swimmer and making the most of the surface currents pushing him gently up the coast. Hondeklipbaai is a very interesting coastal village which was once a busy harbour moving copper ore mined at Springbok. It is also referred to as the real diamond of the west coast but active diamond mining in this area stopped in 2003. We are wondering whether Pan will go closer to shore around this area or head towards Port Nolloth and possibly Namibia which is about a 250km swim from where he finds himself now. Go Pan go!
10 August 2022 - Week four!
Four weeks, three turtles and three very interesting journeys along the South African coastline, cumulatively covering 4 017km thus far!
Donny: Donny who was released off Durban has travelled along 3 different coastal provinces. After exploring the greater Durban coastal area during her first week she made use of the mighty Agulhas current which transported her over 1000 km down the coast.
On the 26th of July, she took a sharp right turn towards the shore, popping out of the Agulhas current and travelling cross current. She is about 10km south of the Gouritz River mouth currently, definitely an area which would offer her plenty of food and that might very well be why she decided to leave the warm but very fast-moving current to move closer to shore. Interesting to note that in 1488 Bartholomeus Dias unknowingly rounded the Cape during a fierce storm during his journey to find a sea route to the east, and once the storm subsided, he headed north and landed right at the Gourtiz River mouth as well. Dias and his crew were the first Europeans to round the Cape more than 500 years ago, however, sea turtles have been navigating these routes for thousands of years and still show to be some of the best ocean travellers ever.
Donny has travelled a total of 1664 km since her release. In the 8 days she spent in the Agulhas current she moved approximately 120 km/day (that is at a 5km/hr pace). Her average pace out of the current is a very respectable 36km/day. She is in a bit of a chilly spot at the moment at about 15 - 16°C with a slight westerly surface wind, but we are sure she is having a good look around for food as she heads closer to shore. Donny has moved from the Agulhas Bank and SW Indian Seamounts MPA’s towards the Stilbaai MPA. During the last three weeks, she has passed 17 of the 41 South African Marine Protected Areas.
Caddy: Caddy’s journey started with a lovely Eastern Cape coastal rendezvous, but on the 26th of July he decided to venture into the Agulhas current which has pushed him down south at 112 km/day. He has now travelled a total of 1669 km since his release from East London. Caddy is proving to be a real smart swimmer and using the surface currents like an absolute pro. He crossed a bit of an eddy from the Agulhas current into one of the Agulhas rings about 348 km south of Cape Town, placing him just inside of the South African EEZ (exclusive economic zone). He might be the first of the trio to venture into the high seas if he moves further south and outside of our EEZ. He remains in a very temperate 17°C in a strong southerly wind and big SW swell. The outside temperature is a chilly 12°C, so he is most likely keeping his head down and just moving with that surface current.
Pan: Pan left Cape Town on a real mission travelling NNW for 10 days before making a proper U-turn on the 26th of July. It is almost as if this trio had a travel plan of changing things up a bit on this specific date. Pan has travelled a total of 684 km, a jolly good half marathon per day on average and he is currently approximately 120 km west of Paternoster.
Pan seems to stay in a very gentle surface current which has taken him on a bit of a loop, but he seems to be saving his energy in the slightly colder zones just going with the flow. He is staying clear of the much colder coastal zones.
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.
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.
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: 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: 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!
There are a lot of reasons that the opportunity to track these three juvenile loggerheads off South Africa’s coastline is exciting:
- 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.
- We have not done a simultaneous turtle release from different coastal locations and are interested to see if the release site impacts their movements.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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