Posted on 2019-07-22 08:21:33
An article by Shirley Bell
Yoshi is a loggerhead turtle. In July 1997, when she was between three and five years old, and no bigger than a dinner plate, she was handed over to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town by the captain of a Japanese fishing vessel that had docked in Table Bay harbour. She had an injury to her shell and was very stressed.
Two Oceans was delighted to have Yoshi and began nurturing her back to health. Looking after her inspired them to formalise their marine turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme, which includes rescuing and rehabilitating stranded hatchlings. Hundreds of rescued, rehabilitated turtles have now been released back into the ocean.
Yoshi grew to weigh 180 kg and, when 25 years old, was approaching maturity, which meant that her breeding instincts were beginning to manifest. It was decided – not without tears - to release her. Careful training ensured that she was in peak condition, because she would have to swim thousands of kilometres once she was back in the ocean. She began a strict exercise routine.
She was released on 16 December 2017, along with twenty-seven loggerhead hatchlings that had been recovering in the rehab and release facility.
Yoshi set off towards Namibia and Angola before turning round in June2018 and heading back down the west coast. She averaged about 24 kms a day, which is a remarkable pace. She managed to avoid ghost fishing gear, which is the biggest threat to marine turtles. She headed for the tip of Africa until she was about 3,500 kilometres from the northern KZN coast, her likely birthplace. Marine turtles return to the beaches where they hatched in order to build their nests. It is hoped that Yoshi will find a mate and head back to her birthplace. Female marine turtles leave the ocean only to lay their eggs. Male marine turtles, on the other hand, never leave the ocean.
Where is Yoshi now?
We can track Yoshi’s journey from the time she returned to the ocean. Go to the Two Oceans Aquarium website. Read the reports, along with the maps, descriptions and photographs, and watch the awe-inspiring and deeply moving videos.
Yoshi’s journeying has established that turtle rehabilitation and release are abundantly worth the enormous effort… and worth the tears of the carers as the turtles disappear into the ocean and swim away.