Yoshi was young, small and injured when the loggerhead turtle was found in July 1997 by a Japanese fishing vessel, and dropped off for care at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.
For two decades she was beloved by visitors and staff, and became known as “Queen of the Exhibit.”
But as she matured and was hitting reproductive age, it became clear a decision had to be made.
By Dec. 2017, Yoshi was about 25-years-old and had grown from the size of a dinner plate to a hefty 183 kilograms.
After months of preparation, she was returned to the ocean fitted with a tracking device. Scientists have been following her ever since.
Now, she has taken the longest-ever recorded journey of any tracked animal as she made her way two years ago from her release in South Africa to waters off Australia.
“Perhaps she is just filling up on some tasty morsels, or perhaps this stop will be a more significant spot on her journey,” Maryke Musson, CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation said in a statement over the weekend. “We should know pretty soon whether Yoshi is an Australian after all, and if she is about to add to the global loggerhead population. Yoshi has done us all proud and we cannot wait to see what she will get up to next.
Yoshi was set free in the sea 27 nautical miles south-west of Hout Bay in 20.6°C water.
Tracking saw her swim along the west coast of Africa to Namibia and Angola.
Then, she turned around and headed east past Cape Town.
And, as of Feb. 28 was officially in Australian waters having travelled some 37,000 kilometres.
“Now, speculation grows that Yoshi may finally have returned to her natal beach to lay eggs of her own,” the Two Oceans Aquarium said in a statement.
Female sea turtles return to their natal beaches, where they hatched, to lay their eggs.
Tracking has her averaging and maintaining a swimming distance of 48 kms per day. But more recent data shows her slowing down slightly to 46 kms.
“Yoshi’s journey back in the wild has not only enthralled us all, but also provided us with some incredible scientific data,” Michael Farquhar, CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium. “The tracking of animals such as Yoshi is fascinating and gives us valuable information so that we can better educate people about these animals and also look to protect them more effectively in the wild.”
Loggerhead turtles can live to between 80 and 100 years old.
While the tracking device may give out soon, Yoshi may well have many years of adventures ahead of her.
Meanwhile, you can follow Yoshi’s adventures here.
Photos Two Oceans Aquarium