Ponu close to home

Thursday June 25, 2020 Written by Published in Local
Ponu pays a visit to her old hunting grounds inside Rarotonga’s Ava’avaroa passage. CHARLOTTE PIHO 20062412 Ponu pays a visit to her old hunting grounds inside Rarotonga’s Ava’avaroa passage. CHARLOTTE PIHO 20062412

Photographer Charlotte Piho met up with Ponu again this week. Jonathan Milne tells how he was lucky enough to be out in the water with them.

There was a childlike excitement in Charlotte Piho’s voice as her head broke the surface of the lagoon. “It’s Ponu, she’s back!”

It was nearly two weeks since my family and hundreds of others watched the turtle with the miracle survival story being released into Ava’avaroa Passage. Ponu swum out into the ocean – and we all wondered if she’d ever be seen again.

“I always hoped and thought she would come back into the passage,” Piho says.

Ponu seemed quite friendly, not at all unnerved by being around people. “I feel that she’s maybe a bit like a baby who’s been wrapped in cotton wool; she may not feel confident to go too deep yet.

“I think in time, she will gain that confidence.”

Stephenie Jansen, who nursed her back to health with a team of helpers, said last night that she was “beyond thrilled” to know Ponu was happy and healthy.

Jansen, the vice-president of Te Are o te Onu turtle society, had spend months feeding the small, sick and injured green turtle, and slowly reintroducing her to the lagoon, swimming with her on a purpose-made leash.

She was not surprised that Ponu was sighted in the shallows of the lagoon, as that was what she was familiar with. There would be fish for her to eat there, as well as algae and rimu (sea grapes).

“Even I like the rimu – I used to share them with her.”

Piho’s photos clearly show the marking on Ponu’s shell, and her identification tag.

It was good news, said Jansen: “As soon as I heard, I rang a couple of people and they rang a couple of people and it wasn’t long before a lot of people were very excited!”

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