She had been so sick and deprived of sunlight that there was no colour in her shell, and her bones were all soft and fractured.
Singer Kura Happ and Josh Utanga nursed her first, before handing her care to Stephenie Jensen at the Discover Eco-Centre in Arorangi.
Yesterday, she was finally strong enough to be released bck in to the ocean – and nearly 200 people gathered at Ava‘avaroa passage to wish her ‘aera ra.
It was a poignant moment for those who had cared for her.
Jensen choked up as she spoke to the crowd on the beach.
“I’ll try and hold it together,” she said. “I’m just quite overwhelmed by the many people who are here to see Ponu off. It’s a testament to how she’s touched people’s lives.”
She thanked Happ and Utanga, Debbie Topp and the vets at Te Are Manu, Prime Foods, Te Are o te Onu and everyone else who had supported Ponu.
“She’s a tough little girl – we call her a girl, though we don’t actually know whether she’s a girl until she’s about 20 years old!”
Diving guide and photographer Charlotte Piho said Ponu was still young. “She will want to explore and see the world, oblivious to the dangers and challenges ahead of her. There will come a time when she will return.
“There's no other place with the healing, happy and magical energy like Ava’avaroa in the world.”
Kura Happ dived alongside her, out into the passage. “She was swimming out of the passage – I think she’s going back where she’s from.”
But she’ll miss the little turtle: “I’ll be swimming out there every day to see if she’s there or not.”