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Tracking our Turtles: Ocean travellers on the move!

By Talitha Noble-Trull and Laura du Toit
- Turtles, Conservation, Marine Protected Areas, Foundation, Blog
Tracking our Turtles: Ocean travellers on the move!

The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation's Turtle Conservation Centre has been tracking four satellite-tagged turtles along the South African coast, and our ocean travellers are on the move! Bheni, Nobomvu, Pan, and Turbo are zooming along and have made incredible progress. Let's hear more from Talitha Noble-Trull, Conservation Manager at the Turtle Conservation Centre...

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The turtles' journeys so far:

Bheni, the green turtle:

It has been 84 days since his release on 8 December 2023, and Bheni is still going with the motion of the ocean. 

The psychedelic map below shows the surface current - the red is the strongest part of the current and the blue is the weakest. It is remarkable and incredibly beautiful to see Bheni's tracks in relation to these surface currents and little swirling eddies in the southern Indian Ocean! He is sticking with them as though tracing a detailed outline: An amazing illustration of the power of the strong current and Bheni's strategic swimming.

Screenshot 68

Bheni is averaging 55.7km per day, about 2.3km/hr. This is not any faster than the speed of the current, indicating that he is not spending too much time actively swimming. Instead, it is more likely that Bheni is utilising the speed of the current itself. That's savvy swimming!

To date, Bheni has travelled 4 678km and is about 1 500km offshore from Durban, 1 500km south of Madagascar, and a mere 6 000km away from Australia!

As Bheni has been swimming eastward, he has been passing some magnificent oceanic ridges; mountains on the seafloor created by the movement of tectonic plates. In the tracking map below, you can see these ridges quite clearly! He has swum over the Mozambiquan Ocean Ridge and is currently on the western side of the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR). A fun fact about this SWIR is that it is one of the slowest spreading ridges on Earth at a rate of roughly 14-15mm per year.

Will Bheni continue to stay in the surface currents or decide to head in a different direction?

Bheni 1 March

Nobomvu, the loggerhead turtle:

We miss our Red Lady at the Turtle Conservation Centre but are chuffed at her movements over the last 70 days. Her release was an emotional day for many and she's made some incredible progress since. Averaging 45km per day, one would never guess that Nobomvu spent a period of her rehabilitation unable to use her flipper!

In the tracking map below, not only can you see Nobomvu’s tracks but also the location of South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This is particularly cool when we see Nobomvu’s movements in relation to the MPAs - she's visited three of these protected marine spaces since her release! 

Bom March

What would these magical marine spaces look like, you wonder? As Nobomvu swam through the Agulhas Bank MPA, she might have seen blankets of kelp forests covering volcanic pinnacles, lots of fish, and possibly even a yellowtail to snack on. The next MPA she swam through was the Southwest Indian Seamounts. The scenery here would have been constantly changing as the area protects a wide range of habitat types, from depths of 200m to 2000m, which helps the animals that use it to be more resilient to climate change. The last MPA that Nobomvu swam through was the Southeast Atlantic Seamounts. This is an entire undersea mountain range. It is also a well-known turtle feeding area, where Nobomvu definitely joined some turtles for a snack.

Nobomvu’s movements have been heavily influenced by surface currents, particularly the small eddies that whirl off the retroflecting Agulhas Current. On 22 February, she was very close to shore, only 50km west from us at the Turtle Conservation Centre, before heading westward. Our Red Lady is enjoying water around 20°C as she ventures out into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Turbo, the green turtle:

At the end of January 2024, we saw Turbo come incredibly close to shore, just south of the Skeleton Coast in Northern Namibia. During this time, he was swimming against the current, which may have suggested that he was feeding! 

Over the last month, we have seen Turbo move southward along the coast. Currently, he is just south of Walvis Bay in water that is around 17°C. Since his release a year and three months ago, Turbo has travelled 7 252km, an average of 16.3km per day! 

Turbo March

Pan, the loggerhead turtle:

The last time we caught up with Pan, he was offshore from Lüderitz in Namibia, and his swimming patterns were indicative of intentional movements that could be related to feeding. 

Currently, there is a slight surface current that Pan has been utilising in his last month of southward travel. After spending the last five months moving in a north-westerly direction, actively swimming rather than using the currents, he has now changed his approach. It seems like Pan is conserving energy and utilising the currents to his advantage! 

Currently, he is about 930km west of Namaqua National Park – right back at the same latitude that he was at in October last year.

Pan has travelled a whopping 11 494km since his release 596 days ago (14 July 2022), which is an average of 19,3 km per day! Pan is enjoying his 20°C water and hopefully some yummy jellyfish along the way!

Pan March

We are so proud of our ocean travellers - not only are they making incredible progress and showing off the power of successful rehabilitation, but they are also making invaluable contributions to turtle research in South Africa! Keep watching this space to follow along on their journeys, or even better, join our turtle community and get the news first! 

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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