Yoshi the turtle makes it to Australia

Photo: Karin Schembrucker/ Two Oceans Aquarium

Yoshi the turtle reaches Australia in record-breaking swim

Yoshi has travelled 37 000 kilometres in the 26 months since her release in December 2017.

Yoshi the turtle makes it to Australia

Photo: Karin Schembrucker/ Two Oceans Aquarium

Yoshi, the extraordinary loggerhead turtle that was released from the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, just two years ago, has reached the coast of Australia in a record-breaking swim.   

According to the Two Oceans Aquarium, Yoshi’s ocean journey has become the longest-ever recorded journey of any tracked animal ever. That’s right, this “cold-blooded” reptile has outdone the journey of any bird, fish or mammal ever recorded. Speculation is growing that Yoshi may finally have returned to her natal beach to lay eggs of her own.

Yoshi reaches Australia’s coastline 

Yoshi is currently steaming ahead with her incredible record-breaking journey and is a mere 66 kilometres off of the Western Australia coast. This officially puts Yoshi in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Australia — which means she is now protected under Australian law — which places a strong emphasis on sea turtle conservation. 

This is also the first time Yoshi has officially visited a country outside of Africa — her passport now gets an Australian stamp right next to South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.

Yoshi has travelled 37 000 kilometres in the 26 months since her release in December 2017. Throughout her journey, Yoshi has averaged and maintained a swimming distance of 48 kilometres per day. 

The latest tracking data shows that she has slowed down slightly and is now clocking in at about 46 kilometres per day. At this stage, the Two Ocean Aquarium can only speculate why — perhaps she is preparing to mate. During the past two years, however, Yoshi has moved into coastal areas a number of times to feed so this may simply be another pitstop along her journey.

Australia’s conservation officials on standby

Yoshi appears to be heading towards Point Samson — a small fishing town in Western Australia’s Pilbara region — a region that is home to some of Australia’s most famous turtle nesting beaches. 

The area is also home to several biodiversity-rich snorkelling hotspots, like Honeymoon Cove. She currently happens to be near Mermaid Reef. 

“With the very real possibility of the battery in Yoshi’s tag running out soon, we are incredibly excited that Western Australian conservation and research officials are on standby to meet her if she nests on one of these beaches,” said the aquarium. 

According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts division, who we have worked closely with to monitor Yoshi’s travels, this is the longest animal journey that has ever been recorded using a satellite tag, both by distance and duration.

“Yoshi has always done things her way, and she might just keep us guessing for a while longer. Perhaps she is just filling up on some tasty morsels, or perhaps this stop will be a more significant spot on her journey. 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”

CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation Maryke Musson

Here’s how Yoshi got her name 

Yoshi arrived in Cape Town in July 1997 on a Japanese fishing vessel as a small two-kilogram juvenile with a very distinctive injury on the side of her shell. The captain of the fishing vessel named her Yoshitaro, after the cook onboard who was rather small in stature himself. He contacted the Two Oceans Aquarium and asked for help. The Aquarium took the turtle in and pretty soon, staff and visitors to the Aquarium alike, had fallen in love with this feisty little turtle.

Over her 20 years at the Aquarium, Yoshi grew to a formidable 180 kilograms and was very aptly known as the “Queen of the Exhibit”. At approximately 25 years of age, Aquarium staff knew she was maturing and her breeding instincts started kicking in. After much research and discussion, it was decided that it would be in her best interest to be released. The next 18 months were spent preparing her for life back in the ocean, which included a daily exercise to increase her fitness levels.

On 16 December 2017, the Two Oceans Aquarium released Yoshi back into the ocean. Weighing 183kg, Yoshi was released 27 nautical miles south-west of Hout Bay in 20.6°C water. Her journey took her along the west coast of Africa to Namibia and Angola, where she spent some time. She then turned around and headed east past Cape Town, and is now officially in Australian waters.