Yoshi’s journey continues

2018-12-18 06:01
YoshiPHOTO: Renee Leeuwner

YoshiPHOTO: Renee Leeuwner

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It’s been a year since one of the Two Oceans Aquarium’s best-loved ambassadors set off on the journey of her life, giving researchers at the aquarium unique insight at the same time.

Just over a year ago, loggerhead turtle Yoshi was released off the coast of Hout Bay, and a tracker attached to her shell has been transmitting her location to aquarium staff (“Fond farewell for famous turtle”, People’s Post, 19 December).

Yoshi came to the aquarium 20 years ago, when she was found by a Japanese long-liner. The crew had kept the injured turtle in a small tank and she had become used to human interaction by the time they docked in Cape Town and the crew called the aquarium, says Musson. The crew also named her after their cook – Yoshitari – and the name stuck.

The young turtle, only the size of a dinner plate when she came to the aquarium, was initially very inquisitive and many a staff member came off second best to a nip from her. The staff trained her to feed with a target and she went on to grow into “the queen of the tank”, weighing in at 183kg.

Yoshi’s release has been a special case – very few turtles kept in captivity for as long as her have been released, Maryke Musson, Two Oceans Aquarium curator, previously told People’s Post. The closest case is the release of a turtle kept in captivity for 10 years.

“This has been such an incredible journey and what we have learnt over the last year is that sea turtles that have been under rehab or in captivity can absolutely adapt to life back in the ocean – even after 20 years in a captive environment,” Musson says.

“They certainly retain their natural ability to navigate and to find food. What we have also experienced is the power of an animal ambassador and that people are really interested in these amazing ocean conservation stories. Yoshi’s release offered us such a great opportunity to continue sharing our conservation messages. The interest in her journey has been absolutely phenomenal. Yoshi’s journey also contributes to validating our turtle rehabilitation efforts and work, giving us the confidence to continue saving turtles because it does make a difference.”

Yoshi has spent the last year travelling 8600 kilometres along the western coast, swimming as far as Angola, and is currently about 680 kilometres west of Hondeklipbaai on the South African West Coast. She has kept a steady pace of 24km per day since her release, and she still prefers swimming against the currents and wind, according to an update on the aquarium’s website.

The closest loggerhead nesting sites are about 3500km from Yoshi’s current location, on the KwaZulu-Natal northern coast. Loggerhead females nest on or near the beaches where they hatched from, so staff at the aquarium are hoping that Yoshi will show them where she started out her life before her satellite tag stops transmitting.

“Yoshi is fitted with a satellite­ transmitter that could transmit for up to three years. To date we have received more than 9000 messages from about 1900 satellite passes, so this tag has been working rather hard. The tags on the two previous tagged turtles transmitted for 14 months before the battery packs ran down, and we are hoping that Yoshi’s tag, being a newer model, would last longer than that. We are just glad that we have been able to follow her adventure for the last 12 months. She is really doing well,” adds Musso­n.

However, Musson cautions that Yoshi’s adventures might see her travelling further before she heads to the beach on which she was born. “Yoshi has reached maturity but might very well travel around for a few years before breeding.

“We also still have no idea where she was originally from as she arrived at the aquarium on a fishing vessel­.

“If she originally hatched out on our KwaZulu-Natal coast, then she could very well reach that area in about seven to eight months, but if she is from breeding areas around Oman or Japan, it will take quite a bit longer,” Musson says.

V To follow Yoshi’s travels, visit www.aquarium.co.za/blog/entry/where-in-the-world-is-yoshi-the-loggerhead-turtle

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