uShaka Sea World released Herbie, a loggerhead turtle, on Tuesday, January 22, 2019.
Sodwana Bay was chosen as an ideal release site because it is located within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park MPA which offers her the best possible chance at survival as well as being a natural nesting site for loggerheads.
There are numerous inshore and offshore reefs in the iSimangaliso MPA which provide abundant foraging grounds with minimal human impact.
Herbie is indeed a remarkable turtle. She joined the old Durban Aquarium (Sea World) way back in 2003, before uShaka Sea World was even open. She was entangled in the shark nets and needed assistance. On arrival she only weighed about 14kg, but she recovered well and was soon eating and swimming strongly. We estimate that she was about 8 years old, although it is difficult to estimate exact ages as growth rates of turtles are largely dependent on food availability and location.
uShaka Sea World’s curator, Simon Chater, has worked with Herbie since her arrival, and he made the decision to release Herbie after consultation with leading turtle biologists around the world.
As Herbie is now probably in the region of 24 years of age, it is time for her to find a suitable partner and lay fertile eggs in the wild. Loggerhead turtles can live for over 80 years and Herbie is now a good age for breeding. Herbie has been through all of the necessary health checks and she is fit and ready to return to the ocean.
Herbie has been tagged with a satellite tag, which will enable us to track her movements for up to three years after her release. The tag was generously donated by the Two Oceans Aquarium, who will be assisting with the ongoing tracking of Herbie. We are excited to follow Herbie’s journey and the information we collect on habitat use, movement and depth will help us to better understand these enigmatic animals.
Legendary turtle biologist Dr George Hughes and author of ‘Between the Tides – In search of sea turtles’, was on hand to assist with the release.
“I am very interested in following Herbie’s journey as there is a strong possibility she will find a mate at sea and return to the beach to lay eggs. If this happens it will not only be a first for South Africa but of significant interest to the global turtle research community”.