Jina, the female loggerhead sea turtle who was rescued in January 2022 after being bitten by a tiger shark off Umkomaas is showing us that nothing is impossible. She is showing us every day that you can thrive, even when not quite perfect.
Jina was admitted to the Sea Turtle Hospital with 60% of her left front flipper and 30% of her right front flipper bitten off by a shark. It is quite common to see flipper amputations in sea turtles, but a partial double amputation had us all worried about whether Jina would be releasable back into the ocean.
She has been exploring the beautiful Kwa-Zulu Natal coastline since her release back into the ocean after 10 months of rehabilitation at SAAMBR’s Sea Turtle Hospital at uShaka Sea World and has covered 2390 km already!
In November 2022 she was cleared for release by our clinical veterinarian as she was healthy, strong and capable of diving and swimming fast (to hunt prey and to avoid predators) and as a mature female, she also has the potential to contribute to the sea turtle population which is classified as endangered.
Prior to her release she was fitted with a satellite tag and an acoustic tag so that her post-rehabilitation oceanic movements and spatial usage could be tracked and studied. The satellite tag can potentially show us where she swims for about 2 years, where the acoustic tag could transmit signals to the listening stations along the coast for up to 8 years, so we hope we will eventually be able to report back on a successful nesting for Jina.
She was released in the beautiful, warm and protected waters at Cape Vidal on the 9th December 2022 and immediately decided to venture south to Richards Bay. She spent a few days exploring this area and we had our friends at the NSRI
on stand-by just in case we felt she needed some assistance. Thankfully this was not the case and she decided to head back up the coast to Leven Point, which is about 20km north of Cape Vidal. This is a beautiful area with 2 shallow reefs offering lots of food (Jina loves to eat) and falls within the St Lucia Marine Reserve, which forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park
This was her home range for approximately 6 weeks as she literally zig-zagged around in this perfect turtle-friendly environment. At this stage Jina was covering approximately 38 km per day, very impressive for any sea turtle, especially Jina with her shorter front flippers which are mainly used for swimming, while the back flippers are used for steering.
On the 3rd of February she entered the fast-moving Agulhas current and caught a ride in this impressive ocean conveyer belt all the way to Durban. The current moves at about 2km/hour, and Jina travelled close to 80km/day and when she was about 60km east of Umhlanga she decided to take a sharp right and headed straight for Durban.
She spent the weekend a few hundred meters behind backline between uShaka beach and North beach, and we would like to believe that she waved one of those short flippers at us.
The East Coast Radio
listeners, Durban Undersea Club divers as well as the NRSI were asked to keep an eye out for this seasoned traveller as it would be lovely to spot her with her little satellite tracker and aerial on her back.
We are very excited about seeing where to next, and we are hoping that she will head back up to the marine protected areas of the north coast while staying well clear of the tiger sharks.
Jina’s raw transmission data mapped out a journey of 2390 km (green line). If we only use the most accurate transmission points and map out her ‘direct journey’ it is about 630 km (red line). The transmissions have an accuracy range, and it is common for the lower accuracy transmission points to appear on land, but we are confident that Jina did not venture into town said Malini Pather, Lead Aquarist, Quarantine & Sea Turtle Rehabilitation.