It has been a month since we have shared updates on our travelling turtles; Nobomvu, Bheni, Turbo, and Pan! This is a much longer gap than usual and was due to the exciting tagging and release project of 14 post-hatchlings that our Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) was focused on in January.
We're itching to know how our ocean adventurers spent their first month of 2024, and we're sure you are too! Let's hear more from Talitha Noble-Trull, Conservation Manager at the Turtle Conservation Centre.
The turtles' journey so far:
Nobomvu started her journey moving southward along the Agulhas Bank. On 4 January, she started moving slowly inshore for two weeks until she was right back in coastal waters near Jongensfontein. She then moved southward again and slipped into the lower part of the Agulhas Current, cruising with some extra speed for a few days.
In the process of joining the Agulhas Current, Bomvu went from the shallow waters of the Agulhas Bank into deeper waters around the Southwest Indian Seamounts – another beautiful MPA!
The part of the MPA that Nobomvu visited is the deepest in the entire MPA network, between 3 800 and 5 200 metres deep. This area's protection is strategic as it covers multiple habitats, depths, and oceanographic conditions. This enables animals to have a higher resilience to climate change.
Nobomvu has stayed in the warm Agulhas Current as it has retroflected (turned back on itself). In the coming days and weeks, it will be interesting to see if she continues with this current up the coast or moves out into surrounding waters.
Bheni the green turtle was released almost two months ago, on 8 December 2023, in De Hoop Marine Protected Areas (MPA) – what a ride it has been.
Bheni took his time adjusting to his freedom and spent his first week exploring De Hoop. He then moved a little further offshore (no more than 50km) and headed westward, past Cape Agulhas and False Bay, making a sharp southward turn just 95km south of Cape Point.
Since 11 January, Bheni has been riding the rollercoaster surface currents in a big way. He has moved in a big C-shape that is completely aligned with the currents (you can see this in the surface current map). He’s been moving at speed!
Bheni has travelled 1 930km in 23 days. That’s 84km per day – he is flying! The top speed of the surrounding current is about 1m/s, which equates to about 8.5km per day. So even though Bheni is using this current, he is actively swimming 10 times faster than the current is moving.
Bheni is also swimming right into South Africa's most offshore Marine Protected Area: The Agulhas Front MPA. This MPA protects four different deep-sea habitat types, sustains a wide variety of life, and includes a core foraging area for the critically endangered leatherback turtle! Is Bheni making leatherback friends in this special spot dubbed the “turtle tuck-shop"? I certainly hope so!
Little Turbo, the green turtle, has been gunning it!
After release in December 2022, he spent a long time puttering around the Western Cape, visiting the West Coast National Park several times.
But in October last year, he decided to venture further, specifically, further north! In the following three months, he travelled 1200km north, crossing the Namibian border and more than half of the Namibian coastline!
On 30 December 2023, Turbo decided to move to a more coastal space and has spent the last month heading towards shallow waters. Currently, he is just south of the Skeleton Coast and 200km north of Walvis Bay. He is only 500km away from Angola!
Unlike Nobomvu and Bheni, who are using the currents to their advantage by conserving their energy and moving with the water, Turbo is exhibiting some interesting patterns. He is currently swimming in waters that do not have strong surface currents, although we can see that he often chooses to swim against these currents. This may suggest that Turbo is feeding!
Our darling loggerhead turtle Pan, we are so chuffed that we have been able to track a year and a half of your journey back at sea!
Pan has been exploring both the coastline and open ocean around South Africa and Namibia. In October last year, he started moving north and, in mid-December, decided to turn back around and squiggle southward a bit.
Pan is currently 540km offshore from Lüderitz in Namibia and 450km east of Walvis Ridge!
Much like Turbo, Pan's movements do not align with surface currents but rather indicate an intentional movement that might be related to feeding.
As always, learning about our turtles' movements is incredibly exciting, yet terrifying. The vast oceans that our brave turtles are exploring are full of danger for marine creatures. Let us use each turtle tracking update as a reminder that we have the power on land to protect Nobomvu, Bheni, Turbo, and Pan's home at sea.
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: