Regular visitors to the Two Oceans Aquarium will have until December to say goodbye to Yoshi the loggerhead turtle, who will be released back into the wild.
Yoshi, the giant turtle at the I&J predators tank, is arguably the most loved and famous sea animal at the aquarium, and had been dubbed the Queen of the Aquarium by the staff.
Yoshi was confiscated from a boat in Table Bay Harbour by local authorities in 1996, after getting caught in a trawler’s fishing nets.
When she arrived at the aquarium, she was the size of a dinner plate and was about three to five years old at the time. She is now 24 to 26 years old, said aquarium curator, Maryke Musson and, considering Yoshi’s age, and certain new behaviours that she was exhibiting, the curatorial team decided that it was time for Yoshi to be released.
“She is within the sexual maturity range now – which is between 18 and 30 years for loggerhead turtles – and we have observed her scratching at the sand in the I&J Ocean Exhibit, possibly mimicking nest-digging behaviour that one might see in the wild. Loggerhead turtles live for between 80 and 100 years, and being confident that Yoshi is fit and healthy, there is no reason for us to keep her with us any longer.”
The Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson, Renee Leeuwner, said Yoshi would be fitted with a satellite tag soon and tracked for up to three years. “The Two Oceans Aquarium rehabilitates turtles throughout the year and the I&J Ocean Exhibit currently houses two other turtles, Bob and Sandy, that are being rehabilitated. Once Bob and Sandy have been rehabilitated and have been given a clean bill of health, they, too will be released.”
The newest arrival is Moya, the green sea turtle, who was rescued after it was found motionless on a beach in Sedgefield last week. The turtle had an injury on its flipper.
After being treated at a Tenikwa’s Wildlife Hospital, Moya was strong enough to be moved to the aquarium, where the turtle will receive care from its veterinary clinic.
Ms Leeuwner said the marine animals were exhibited in communities created by the aquarium staff. “We need to make sure as best we can that the marine animals can live together.
“We need to consider animal characteristics, species compatibility, husbandry requirements, visual effect of such species and behaviour.
Temperature of exhibit is obviously very important as well, and our ability to make sure that every single animal will eat. Some fish behave very differently when juveniles compared to adults, so that must be taken into consideration too.”
She said it takes a long time to put a species list together, and the staff and experts often work their way through many options.
“For the I&J Ocean Exhibit, we have a three-year plan. We have been sourcing juvenile fish to grow out in smaller exhibits, so that they can eventually end up in the larger exhibit.Transporting small fish is easier, safer and cheaper – and that is why we need to think so far ahead.
“We also source all our fish locally, so that we do have the ability to release should the need arise. For instance, one of fish in the Ocean Exhibit started to bite the rays, we managed to catch it out, transport it to Durban, where it will be released as it was originally caught in Durban. It received a health check and vet certificate before it was released.”
Earlier this year, the Two Oceans Aquarium introduced nine ragged-tooth sharks to the I&J predator exhibit (“’Raggies’ add to aquarium’s splendour,” CapeTowner, July 6). However, Ms Leeuwner said last week, they had decided to release two of the male sharks as they were not settling in.
“Male sharks are known to be more inquisitive, and these two are more dominant in the exhibit and have tended to get a little too close to our divers for comfort.”
Following extensive renovations, the I&J Ocean exhibit re-opened at the end of June, and therefore, said Ms Leeuwner, the marine animals were still settling down. “Whenever we notice any signs that an animal has not settled into its home, we routinely return animals to where they were collected.”
The Two Oceans Aquarium is currently renovating its Ocean Basket Kelp Forest exhibit, which will re-open next year.