Coast KZN

15 Mar 2018

Plucky Pemba makes her way north

Zainul Dawood (Daily News) Picture: Kevin Spigby and Malini Pather guide Pemba to the sea. Pemba was fitted with a satellite tracking device. On Tuesday she has reached Park Rynie on the South Coast. (Photo: SAAMBR)

Pemba, an adult Olive Ridley Turtle, has clocked up 425km since her release from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on Thursday.

On Tuesday, she was swimming offshore from Park Rynie on the South Coast, according to a tracking device attached to her shell.

“Pemba appears to be swimming with purpose down our coastline, with not much exploring along the way,” said the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) on its website.

According to the association, Pemba was admitted to the Two Oceans Aquarium turtle rehabilitation and release programme after a boat-based tour operator found her floating in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town, in December 2014.

Initial examination showed a fracture on the side of her shell, presumably from a boat’s propeller. Surgery was performed and the fracture was wired together. The fracture healed within a few months.

Pemba was under constant veterinary supervision and was treated for the fractured shell, as well as a suspected lung tear.

Numerous efforts to remove large volumes of air from within the turtle’s organs proved unsuccessful. The trapped air caused her to be buoyant so she could not dive down to find food.

Treatment continued at the aquarium until September 2016, when she was moved to uShaka Sea World in Durban for further treatment.

Staff at uShaka spent the next 16 months working with Pemba, who still had buoyancy and lung issues. Slowly her diving abilities began to increase. Pemba ate mainly crustaceans and could therefore not be released until she could dive deep enough to find food.

Researchers hoped she would make her way up the east coast or across to Madagascar, where other Olive Ridley turtles live.

“Wherever she goes she will help us to understand more about these elusive and endangered animals. This knowledge will help us to care for them in their ocean realm,” said Malini Pather, senior quarantine aquarist at uShaka Sea World.