Taking the lead

Friday December 06, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Ponu adjusting to the harness in her purpose built tank. 19120508 Ponu adjusting to the harness in her purpose built tank. 19120508

Discovered floating near death, little turtle Ponu was nursed back to health by volunteers – but they thought she’d never be well enough to be released back to the ocean. Now, with a bit of local innovation, Ponu’s carers are daring to hope. 


Remember Ponu, the turtle – the one who was destined to spend rest of her life in her own purpose-built tank at the Discover Marine and Wildlife Eco Centre at Arorangi? She is now deemed all-but-ready to be released into the ocean.

But before Ponu is returned home, she needs to be trained in the maritime environment.

Stephenie Jansen, Ponu’s caretaker, has taken up the challenge. She will take the turtle for regular swims in the lagoon until she is ready for release.

“That’s when we came with the harness approach. We need the harness so she can’t get away while we take her out at sea to get her acclimatised,” Jansen said. “The last thing we want is Ponu to slip away before she is ready.”

Te Are Manu Vet Clinic supplied the leashes and collars and South Pacific Canvas helped Jansen make a harness fit for Ponu.  Te Ara O Te Onu Society (The Way of the Turtle) also lent a hand.

Stefan Troy and Megan Collier of South Pacific Canvas said they were happy to assist in a worthy cause. “This is something different and we wanted to be a part of it,” Collier said.

Troy said this was the first time they had worked with a “live object”. “We had to design the harness in a way that it accommodated for Ponu’s growth which is 200 grams per week.”

Ponu was bit hesitant when Jansen tried the harness on her earlier this week.

“She is not too keen on wearing it but we would be putting it on her for at least twice a day until she is used to moving around with that,” Jansen said. “We are going to start taking her into ocean and getting her ready.”

They are planning a celebration the day Ponu is released.

By January they expect Ponu to grow a bit bigger and to have a bigger flipper that will be tagged for monitoring. “We are looking at releasing her into the Avaavaroa passage where there are lot of turtles and also a lot of observations because there are people going in and out dealing with turtles,” Jansen said. “They can recognise her and update us on her progress.”

“We thought Ponu would never be able to be released but finally we are beating the odds. She deserves to have a chance to have a normal life now.”

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