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Turtle Power: A Passagemaker Like You've Never Seen

Loggerhead turtle travels 23,000 miles from South Africa to Australia

Yoshi the loggerhead turtle lived in captivity at Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium for 20 years, first brought to the facility after the crew on a Japanese fishing boat found her with a damaged shell. She captured the hearts of the aquarium staff and visitors, and they were able to learn more about turtle rehabilitation from their long-term resident, successfully rehabilitating and releasing more than 600 turtles in the past twelve years. Eventually, the aquarium began to wonder if Yoshi could be reintroduced to the wild.

In December 2017, the aquarium did just that, but not before putting Yoshi through a strict exercise program to prepare her for ocean travel. The staff trained her to feed on a target so she could swim 20-meter lengths in her tank. Two divers would stand in the exhibit, one at either end, and encourage her to chase a target back and forth. Her training regime continued for 18 months before she was ready for release.

Yoshi was outfitted with a satellite tag and released 30 nautical miles off Cape Town. The team had no idea where she would travel, as her origin was unknown, but they followed her journey closely. Yoshi then embarked on an expansive journey that surprised everyone.

She spent her first year traveling up the west coast of Africa to Angola and then returning to the Cape Town area. Afterwards, she crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived in Australia. She is currently off the coast of Pilbara in Western Australia, where researchers hope to catch her and fit her with a new satellite tag. She appears to be foraging, and researchers expect she may nest next year.

In total, the 400-pound turtle has logged close to 23,000 miles. Her journey is believed to be the first recorded movement of a sea turtle between Africa and Australia, and researchers think she may have returned to her original hatching site. Read more about this incredible sea turtle’s voyage here