Coast KZN

28 Mar 2018

Where is Pemba the turtle heading to?

Zainul Dawood (Daily News) Picture: A satellite tracking device is fitted to Pembas shell (Photo: SAAMBR)

The journey of Pemba the Olive Ridley Turtle continues to astound marine scientists but his trek is revealing new insights intoTurtle migration routes.

On Tuesday, the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) said that Pemba is currently 371 nautical miles (687 km) SSW of Cape Point. The tracking of Pemba`s journey is the 1st in South Africa.

Pemba was released, with a satellite tracking device, at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, on the KwaZulu Natal north coast, on March 9. The device will allow scientist from SAAMBR to follow her movement for the next 18 to 24 months.
Joint efforts by Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town and uShaka Sea World in Durban ensured Pemba was rehabilitated and released after four years of rehabilitation.

According to SAAMBR website, Pemba was found floating in Table Bay Harbour in December 2014. She was admitted to the Two Oceans Aquarium turtle rehabilitation and release programme.

Initial examination showed a fracture on the side of her carapace (shell), presumably from a boat propeller strike. Surgery was performed and the fracture was wired together.

The fracture healed within a couple of months. Pemba was under constant veterinary supervision and was treated with antibiotics for the fracture to her shell as well as a suspected lung tear. Numerous attempts at removing large volumes of air from the turtle’s coelomic cavity proved unsuccessful.

The trapped air caused her to be positively buoyant and she could therefore not dive down as a healthy turtle would to find food.
Treatment continued at the Two Oceans Aquarium until September 2016, when the decision was made to move Pemba to uShaka Sea World in Durban for further treatment and future release. Once Pemba had regained her ability to dive, there was no looking back and the team began to plan her release.

Olive Ridley turtles are uncommon along the beaches of KwaZulu-Natal and, unlike the loggerhead and leatherback turtles, they do not nest on local beaches. Small populations of this species of turtle are found off northern Mozambique, Tanzania and north-west Madagascar

The SAAMBR chose Mbibi as the release site because of its location within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

“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. The teams at uShaka Sea World and the Two Oceans Aquarium are grateful that she has recovered so well after the many years of care and we wish Pemba a wonderful return to the ocean” said Malini Pather, senior quarantine aquarist at uShaka Sea World.