1 003 days. More than 40 011km. 23 509 satellite messages. 6 282 satellite passes. 2 Ocean basins. 2 Continents. 1 Legend. Greatest of all time. YOSHI.
For nearly three years, Yoshi the legendary loggerhead turtle has been making headlines around the world, but we knew that the day would come when her satellite would send its last transmission and we would lose contact with her. That day has arrived.
Since her release in December 2017, she has swum over 40 000km. She has explored the west coast of southern Africa - visiting Robben Island, Namibia's Skeleton Coast and even Angola; turned around and has kept going all the way to Australia. She made pitstops at various feeding areas - even discovering sites unknown to science, kept swimming against the currents, but incredibly kept up her remarkable pace. Once her tracking data started making headlines, the public and scientists alike, started taking notice of her epic journey. Now, with the final transmissions of Yoshi's tag reaching us, we know that she has eventually settled down in the La Grange area of Western Australia's Eighty Mile Beach
Former Two Oceans Aquarium Curator, now the CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, Maryke Musson has been involved with Yoshi's story for a while - from the planning of Yoshi's release in 2017, to the ongoing tracking and interpretation of her satellite data. Analysis of Yoshi's final satellite transmissions, and what we think they tell us about her future, will be posted in the near future by the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.
Michael Farquhar, CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium remembers when Yoshi first came to the Aquarium. “I will never forget the day that Yoshi arrived at the Two Oceans Aquarium. In part because I had not been at the Aquarium long and I had never handled a turtle before, but mostly because of the debate that ensued between Dr Pat Garratt (the Curator), Lex Fearnhead (the CEO), and other Curatorial staff. Our Aquarium was still very new and the soft acrylic panels were still (mostly) scratch-free. Pat’s experience with turtles was that they are a hazard to divers when they get big and they are a menace for acrylics because the claws on their flippers scratch acrylics badly.”
In the end, the decision was made to introduce Yoshi into the then Predator Exhibit. She quickly became a hit with the public and the staff. Yoshi was always an enthusiastic feeder and in winter, when the sharks often didn’t feed from the divers during the Sunday “shark feeds” Yoshi was always available to put on a show for the visitors. When Yoshi arrived at the Aquarium, she was the size of a dinner plate and weighed perhaps three kilograms. She rapidly grew and on her release tipped the scale at 183kg.
Devon Bowen, Online Executive for the Aquarium, remembers Yoshi: “One of my earliest memories of anything was visiting the Aquarium with my parents as a child, of all the animals, Yoshi is the one that I remember clearly. Then, two decades later, Yoshi was there to greet me when I started my job at the Aquarium. She was there when I did my first-ever scuba dive. She was the first turtle that I saw go through the release process. Now, she’s the turtle that motivates me to inspired others to find the same love and fascination for the ocean that she instilled in me.”
The decision to release Yoshi was one not made lightly. “It had concerned a number of us for a while that Yoshi would likely live for another 50+ years and should really be back in the oceans contributing to the survival of her species,” said Michael. The possibility of Yoshi’s release was thoroughly investigated, and in the end, it was agreed that her release would be possible. Yoshi underwent a strict exercise regime to prepare her for swimming long distances in the ocean. She was also fitted with a satellite tracker. On 16 December 2017, approximately 30 nautical miles south of Cape Point, Yoshi re-joined the great blue kingdom and started her new journey.
No one knew where Yoshi would choose to go. The first year of her release, she meandered along the western coast of Southern Africa. She then turned around and headed south, rounding Cape Point. From there, she just kept swimming until she eventually reached Australia. “Yoshi continues to inspire me to dream big - as in ‘crossing an ocean’ big, and to make the most and best of every situation, every day” – Maryke Musson, CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.
The world's most famous turtle:
Once Yoshi reached Australia her remarkable journey caught the attention of local sea turtle researchers and scientists. They tried to find her so they could replace her tag, and during the search, they found a formerly unknown foraging area for loggerhead turtles. So, in the process of going about her business, Yoshi had become a scientist herself.
But that is not all that Yoshi has done. Yoshi’s story has become an inspiration for many. Her travels have captivated the world and have turned the eyes onto the plight of turtles. People have always been rooting for Yoshi, willing her to swim strong and keep going. But suddenly they started noticing all the dangers that she had to face. From being caught in fishing nets to plastic pollution, and the real possibility that Yoshi’s journey could be brought to an end because of humans.
Yoshi will always hold a very special place in our hearts, and we deeply appreciate all her followers, fans, researchers in South Africa and Australia and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries for the incredible support. Yoshi was part of our lives since 1997, and now, as an Australian citizen, she has another 60 years or more ahead of her for exploring and enjoying the ocean.
She was a fantastic ocean ambassador while she was with us and undoubtedly inspired many people but her release and subsequent travels have captivated people on a completely different level. Viva Yoshi, viva!