Cape Town - The story of Bob the green turtle has seemingly come to an end, for now, as it has been announced that the beloved green turtle’s satellite tag stopped transmitting.
The news was shared on Monday by Conservation Manager at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation’s Turtle Conservation Centre, Talitha Noble.
Bob the green turtle, first arrived at the Two Oceans Aquarium in November 2014 after she was found in serious condition on a beach in the De Hoop Nature reserve, about four hours drive from Cape Town.
After being brought to the Two Oceans Aquarium by Darrell Anders from the Department of Environmental Affairs, she presented with severe bruising of the plastron (bottom shell), with loss of scales (scutes), exposed bone and a fracture of the plastron.
A result of severe injuries and infection spreading to the blood, Bob suffered permanent brain damage, affecting her behaviour and ability to breathe.
Bob also pooped out several single-use plastic bags and balloons.
Earlier this year, after 8 years of rehabilitation at the aquarium, Bob was released into the warm ocean in KwaZulu-Natal.
Noble said it has been exciting watching Bob’s journey as she navigated the east coast of South Africa, riding the Agulhas Current, staying on the inside of the continental shelf, and hanging out in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) wherever possible.
“The value of MPAs hit home in a new way as we watched Bob’s journey, feeling a real sense of relief each time that she entered the boundaries of a safer, more protected piece of ocean.”
“Bob visited the friendly hammerhead sharks in Aliwal Shoal, saw the beginning of the sardine run in the Eastern Cape, and had a fun little check-in on the whales in Hermanus. All these adventures took place in Bob’s first six weeks back in the ocean,” Noble said.
“In our last month of tracking Bob, we saw her moving in a northerly direction along the continental shelf. Food was most likely the motivation for the gear change as Bob started swimming in a straight line towards the summer blooms of jellyfish, about 200km offshore of the Namaqua National Park.
“Then, on the 3rd of October at 07:07, Bob’s satellite tag stopped transmitting. The last transmission point was 300km west off the coast of Hondeklipbaai. We had the great privilege of tracking Bob for 249 days, 12 656 km, and through over half of South Africa’s 42 MPAs.”
Noble explained that green turtles like Bob are notoriously tricky to tag as their shells, as well as being softer than those of other turtle species, excrete oil that makes it hard for satellite tags to grip for very long.
“Therefore, we suspect that the tag has fallen off Bob's carapace… Complete freedom is the ultimate reward for eight years of difficult rehabilitation, so although we are sad to have lost contact with Bob’s satellite tag, we are thrilled that her journey is continuing.”
At some point in the future, Bob will return to the beach where she hatched to lay clutches of her own offspring. Noble explains that Bob still has her flipper tag - which identifies the turtle and provides scientists with important information, such as the date it was tagged and the place of release, which means that “we are going to get a phone call in some years' time from turtle colleagues on a pristine tropical beach, calling us to say that a beautiful turtle with a flipper tag ZA0497 has come to nest”.