Grab some tissues because the Two Oceans Aquarium has released footage of the journey leading up to Bob’s big return to the big blue, including the moment he’s released, as well as a tracking update by the Turtle Conservation Centre detailing Bob’s first few days of freedom.
Also read: Bob released into the wild after 8 year recovery at Two Oceans Aquarium
When Bob first arrived at Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium, he had extensive bruising, fractures, exposed bone, brain damage, and breathing problems and weighed only 16 kilograms.
In addition to these ailments and injuries, Bob also excreted a number of single-use plastic bags and balloons. Overnight, Bob became an ambassador for the threats of the human-induced plastic crisis.
After eight years of treatment and enrichment activities, Bob the “unreleasable” turtle was fit for release.
Watch: Bob shuffles back into the big blue
While Bob’s release was an incredible accomplishment for the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation team as well as the entire Aquarium staff, his return to the ocean is tempered by concern for his well-being.
Plastic pollution is still a major threat to the safety of marine animals, such as turtles, in the ocean. As a turtle ambassador, Bob will continue to inspire anti-plastic pollution campaigns as the aquarium community follows his journey.
The Turtle Conservation Centre will closely monitor his progress thanks to the three tags and the support of Karoline Hanks, who participated in the 13 Peaks Challenge twice to raise funds for a satellite tracker tag for Bob. Tracking Bob helps allay their fears and provides important research data.
“We have already seen that Bob has moved north, to an area abundant with seagrass and where SAAMBR is currently tracking a few turtles,” said Talitha Noble.
Tracking update: Bob’s journey so far
The Two Oceans Aquarium has provided an itinerary of the first few days of Bob’s new adventure:
“Bob was released at around 11:30 on the morning of Friday, 27 January 2023, on the coast of northern KwaZulu-Natal. We were driving back from the release site through the sugar cane fields, feeling a strange mix of sadness and excitement for Bob when we heard “ping”—we had received our first transmission from his satellite tag!”
Bob was released into the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of uThukela. The MPA map below, created by Dr Mann of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, shows that uThukela is divided into zones, each with its own set of regulations. Bob spent his first two days in uThukela’s controlled zone, which allows for limited fishing activities.
“Day 2 was all about the adventure! Staying about 100 metres offshore, Bob made his way up along the coast from Blythedale to Princes Grant, a distance of four kilometres, probably snacking from abundant algal beds along the way.”
But that wasn’t all the excitement; this was Bob’s first chance to go deep diving in 8 years!
He reportedly moved about five kilometres offshore, where the depth was almost 50 metres. Bob must have really enjoyed these deep-water coral reefs because, on the third day, he continued to move north while staying this far offshore.
“Day 3 was an exciting day for Bob for a few reasons. First and foremost, he covered an impressive 18 kilometres (way to go, Bob!). Secondly, he swam past the Tugela River Mouth and, in doing so, entered the most protected part of the uThukela MPA.”
“Staying within this fully restricted part of the MPA, Bob moved even further (12 km) offshore on Day 4, though he looks to be turning around. Perhaps he’s heading back to those yummy algal beds?”
SAAMBR is currently tracking a few turtles in the same area that Bob is visiting, which makes his current areas of exploration even more exciting.
One particular turtle, Nala, weighs 130 kilogrammes and was only in rehabilitation for three weeks before being released a few kilometres north of Bob’s release site.
The tracking data has shown that Bob and Nala covered a similar area and amount of ground during their first three days following release.
“We are deeply impressed by Bob’s adventurous, smart, and very turtle-like behaviours in these first few days back home. Well done, Bob!”
Keep an eye on the Two Oceans Aquarium’s social media platforms for Bob’s updates over the upcoming months.
Bob-voyage: Two Oceans Aquarium holds a farewell for Bob the turtle
Picture: Two Oceans Aquarium / Facebook