Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle's Incredible Journey Home
Written and Illustrated by Lindsay Moore
Published by Greenwillow Books, An Imprint of HarperCollins, 2022.
Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle's Incredible Journey Home follows the journey of a rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle named Yoshi, released off of Cape Town, South Africa in 2017.
★ "Yoshi’s incredible story, the collection of scientific information, and engaging illustrations will capture readers, encouraging inquiry and exploration through a sea turtle’s eyes." - School Library Journal (starred review)
Yoshi is a loggerhead sea turtle that arrived at Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa when she was small. She had been found by Japanese fisherman with a damaged shell. The aquarium was brand new and had no intention of keeping turtles, but the feisty little loggerhead won them over and through research and growing experience they learned about sea turtle care. Yoshi’s successful rehabilitation paved the way for the development of a sea turtle rehabilitation program. To date Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation has rehabilitated and released hundreds of turtles from tiny hatchlings to whoppers like Yoshi, who have stranded on the South African coast due to low body temperatures, illness, injury or ingestion of plastic.
Yoshi was released right before Christmas in 2017, after 20 years at the aquarium. Her aquarium family hoped that she would find her way home and lay eggs of her own. In the months leading up to her release, the staff got her fit and full of food to give her a strong start to her new wild life. They fitted her with a tracking tag hoping to keep in touch with her over the coming year. Maryke Musson, who headed the project at Two Oceans Aquarium, admitted to feeling nervous every morning when she checked her computer. Would she hear from Yoshi? Was Yoshi going to be okay? The truth is, the ocean should be a relatively safe place for turtles Yoshi’s size. Yoshi would have very few natural predators, but humans have added significant danger: fishing line, floating plastic and ship traffic are all problems for sea turtles. So they held their breath as she passed through busy shipping ports and through well known fishing grounds. Would she make it? Would they finally find out where Yoshi was really from?
There were guesses as to her origin. Many thought she had been from one of the populations nesting along the coast of eastern South Africa or in Oman. No one expected her to travel the route she took. She swam north along the west coast of southern Africa. Moving from South Africa, to Namibia and then all the way up to the warm waters off of Angola. Then she headed out to Walvis Ridge, an underwater mountain range that extends into the Atlantic Ocean. Then, after a year of exploration, Yoshi was right off the coast of Cape Town again and Maryke worried that Yoshi’s tag would run out without ever finding out where Yoshi was from. Although she seemed to have come right back to where she started, Yoshi demonstrated that she was capable of finding food in the ocean. With a sort of laugh, “We thought it would be an Eat, Love, Pray adventure for Yoshi, but it has turned out to be an Eat, Eat Eat”, said Maryke.
Then, after feasting at a few sea mounts off the southern end of South Africa, Yoshi rounded the Cape of Good Hope, still sending signals as she spent the next year crossing the Indian Ocean, picking up speed. When I spoke with Scott Whiting, a sea turtle biologist in Western Australia, he said, “You couldn’t navigate it better in a boat”. Yoshi crossed the ocean and ended her journey in Western Australia in an incredibly remote area between Darwin and Broome. There’s some beauty in her ending in a place so remote after being in the public eye for so long. She spent the next few months there and her tag, which had outlasted expectations, finally sent its last signal in the austral spring of 2020. Before the battery ran out, Dr. Whiting and a team from Western Australia went to the region to try and locate Yoshi and potentially apply a new tag. They didn’t find Yoshi, although they could detect her tag’s pinging nearby. What they did find surprised them. Yoshi had led researchers to a high density loggerhead feeding area. There were loggerhead turtles of different sizes all over. The feeding area had been unknown to researchers. More “eat, eat, eat” for Yoshi. Mature sea turtles foraging near the Kimberly tend to nest off Ningaloo and around Sharks Bay, so while there are still some mysteries left to Yoshi’s origin, her aquarium family is confident that after swimming 25,000 miles from Cape Town, she is home in Western Australia. Yoshi spent her early years inspiring residents and visitors in Cape Town and has impressed the world by demonstrating the natural navigation and swimming abilities of loggerhead sea turtles on a global scale.
Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle's Incredible Journey Home is available at your local independent book store or wherever books are sold.