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Annie and Luis: our travelling turtles
By:
Maryke Musson
Maryke is the CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation. She is a scientist by training, but an absolute superwoman in general, juggling the daily operations and fulfilling the mission of the Aquarium Foundation.

Annie and Luis are two adult loggerhead turtles that were recently released back into the ocean. Annie was at our rehabilitation centre since July 2019, and became quite the feature in the Two Oceans Aquarium’s I&J Ocean Exhibit. Luis was found off the coast off Hout Bay, in Cape Town in June 2020. Read more about them and the release on our turtle releases page.

travel
/ˈtrav(ə)l/

To go from one place to another, typically over a distance of some length.
Synonyms: journey, tour, voyage, expedition, globetrotting, roam, cruise, trek, rove.

Our two traveling turtles are 100% living up to the above definition, with Annie clearly on a proper trek, while Luis is roaming at quite a pace. Together, they have travelled 4300 kilometers over 20 days! That is a more than a double marathon each per day. These two are definitely our fastest turtles tracked ever.

The journey so far, 20 days after release (Annie in green and Luis in red)

Annie is on a mission, heading up the east coast right on the edge of the Agulhas current, which means she is in warm water of about 24°C. She had no trouble finding the Protea Seamount which is just off the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf. A seamount is a submarine mountain, meaning a mountain under the ocean, which are generally extinct volcanoes. Seamounts are recognised as biological hotspots and supporting high productivity and biodiversity. The Protea Seamount is a known aggregation site for several migratory species such as sharks, tuna and turtles, so a great place for Annie to find food and friends.

She has just passed Brownes Bank, and important EBSA (Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area). She is heading towards the Shackleton and Mallory Seamounts, two dynamic offshore areas and spawning sites for sardines, anchovy and hake. Leatherback turtles frequently visit this area, 300 km directly south of Mosselbay.

Annie has travelled 2 139 km since her release 20 days ago, and this is incredibly impressive after a long and rather bumpy (and gassy) rehabilitation at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Her ‘bubble butt’ is clearly not keeping her from being the ultimate turtle traveller.

Annie’s current location and the sea surface temperature

Luis is cruising, and in roaming and adventure mode. He is 114 km west of Cape Town, but has explored right up to Saldanha Bay. It is amazing to see the different oceanic movements between Luis (a mature male loggerhead) and Annie (a mature female loggerhead), even though they have practically covered the same distance. Luis has raked up a solid 2 160 km. That is a very impressive 108 km per day over the last 20 days. He seems to be enjoying the circular currents and temperate 21°C water, and I am very excited to see whether he will make a choice and head east, west or possibly even south.

Luis’ current location and the sea surface temperature

Luis has been roaming off the west coast, with no clear indication yet where he will go

It is once again fantastic to see how well these sea turtles adapt back to life in the ocean, after their rehabilitation journeys. Were it not for caring people, rescuers, the NSRI, the Aquarium Foundation’s incredible turtle team and tremendous public support, these two travellers would not have had the opportunity to have a go at another 60 years or more in the ocean. We celebrate our turtle heroes and these turtle survivors every day.

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