Featured Image Credit: SAAMBR
By: Kira Krall
Pemba, an endangered olive ridley sea turtle, was found floating near the surface off of Cape Town, South Africa in 2014. She was brought in to Two Oceans Aquarium where veterinarians determined that she had an upper shell fracture likely caused by a boat strike. She was also treated for a suspected lung tear, as a turtle’s lungs are close to inner edge of the carapace, or upper shell.
Her shell was wired together and her antibiotic treatment began. Due to her fracture, Pemba came down with what’s known as “bubble butt”, a funny-sounding name for a serious condition. Turtles with a boat strike like this olive ridley’s often get air trapped under their shell. The bubbles make it impossible for the turtle to dive down and hide from predators, hunt for prey, and avoid being struck again.
Almost two years of round-the-clock treatment at Two Oceans Aquarium healed her shell wound, but not her buoyancy or lung problems. She was flown to uShaka Sea World on a private aircraft to continue her treatment and hopefully make her way to release. It took 16 months for Pemba to regain her ability to dive beneath the waves. Once Sea World staff saw that she could now fend for herself, they decided it was time to release her back into the wild.
Pemba was released into the iSimangalsio Wetland Park on the East Coast of South Africa. The abundant feeding grounds made it a perfect spot for the recently checked-out turtle. The satellite transmitter will share her dive depth, location, speed, and other data with researchers interested in learning more about Pemba’s journey and her species as a whole. See below for a map of Pemba’s whereabouts, courtesy of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research.
Read more from our source about Pemba, track her whereabouts with weekly updates, and see more photos from her four-year-long recovery.