Happ embraced Ponu before and after her flippers were tagged and explained how the turtle used to be as small as the palm of her hand.
Happ held Ponu down with the help of Te Ipukarea Society’s Kelvin Passfield while National Environment Services senior biodiversity officer ElizabethMunro tagged the reptile.
As soon as it was done, Happ gave Ponu a hug and she was released back into her water tank.
Ponu, the Pacific green turtle, weighed 785 grams when she was first brought to the Discover Marine and Wildlife Eco Centre.
She was found floating at Avatiu harbour by a member of the public in March last year and was taken to Te Are Manu - who found that she was suffering from metabolic bone disorder, which made her shell and bones very soft.
As of yesterday, she weighed 8.6 kilograms.
Marine Centre’s Stephenie Jansen said Pacific green turtles are on the endangered list.
The tagging can provide information on Ponu’s movement, growth rates, reproductive life history such as remigration intervals, nesting frequency and clutch size.
Jansen said they are arranging a pearl carver to put her name and the Centre’s phone number onto the rear of her shell, in the hope that if she needs help, someone will call them.
The marking will grow out within six months.
In November last year, Ponu went for her first swim in the lagoon.
Jansen said at first she was a little reluctant but then she began to swim slowly around her new environment.
Ponu is expected to be released into the passage on June 14 depending on the tides and as part of the countdown, Ponu has been taken to the Avaavarua Passage to get used to the current and depth.
“This is the passage she will be released into. There are already a lot of non-migratory turtles living in the passage,” Jansen said.
“It is our hope that she will make this her new home once released.”