|Quickstats: Seen 1995, 1997 (41K JPEG), 1999 (26K JPEG), 2000 (38K JPEG), 2001, nesting at French Frigate Shoals 2002, 2003, 2004.||Summer updates: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.|
We don’t really know for sure when we first saw Shredder. Certainly it was before 1995, but checking our records of the early years, 1990 through 1994, there is no mention of this turtle.
Still, a couple of times each summer we'd see a large female resting at the Turtle House. When she saw us, she’d quickly up and leave. We could see no details of the face, just a turtle silhouette. Even from a distance, she was unique. Her considerable girth made her flippers appear very small indeed, so that watching her swim away one could marvel at how she could propel her bulk along as easily and gracefully as she did.
But those feet! Her right one especially looked like it had been dipped in a paper shredder. Hence her name: Shredder.
It took until 1995 for us to acclimate her sufficiently to get close enough to record her facial markings--our only way for a positive identification.
Shredder wore tags and it seems she’s always done so. Finally, in July 1997 she allowed us to read them. She carries A 240 and A 241.
With this information, we emailed George Balazs of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Honolulu and reported her whereabouts. George does his best to check his French Frigate Shoals nesting records and give us the stats on any Honokowai tagged females.
What follows is the information he generously provided on Shredder in an August 1997 message. George wrote:
I have a note listing several tag recoveries to look up for you. I now have one of the three--tags A240/A241 on the same nesting female, East Island. First seen there and tagged 5/26/91, on East Is. ccl 102.5 cm. Came ashore again for nesting purposes (doesn't mean eggs laid each time) on 5/27, 5/28, 6/11, 6/24, 7/6, 7/7, 7/20 and 8/1/91. At least again on 6/15, 6/16, 6/17, and 6/29/93. Was likely there July and August (and maybe even September) of 1993, but we had no one out there watching (nor did we need to). That's it, no record of nesting, or anything else, since 1993. Tell me again please when it was seen, where, and status as far as tumors or anything else. Note that no tumors were seen on this turtle on any of the observations.
As we reported to George, Shredder was free of tumors in 1997 and we hope her good fortune continues.
George provided us with fascinating information on Shredder. Given we have photographic proof of her Honokowai whereabouts in 1995 and ’97, we are left wondering where she was in 1996. Our own fieldnotes make no reference to her.
This year will be very interesting all round for the Honokowai tagged female turtles. 1998 marks the 25th Silver Anniversary of the tagging program at the French Frigate Shoals and we are hoping Shredder will make a pilgrimage and make more turtles to honour this event.
Last summer (1997) Shredder and three other tagged Honokowai females, Tutu (U 521), McTaggert (F 765), and Mendelbrot (U 359) were all in their resident foraging area taking a year off from their reproductive duties.
While we would certainly miss these four wonderful creatures, we are hoping all four make the trek to the French Frigate Shoals so they can help celebrate the 25 years of uninterrupted tagging that was initiated June 1, 1973.
Shredder was not seen at Honokowai in 1998. She was confirmed as nesting at the French Frigate Shoals on June 7, and three times thereafter.
On our August 26th morning dive, we were exploring new territory while fighting one sucker of a current. We came upon a ridge and there, in the sand, rested a turtle.
Peter approached and videotaped. He didn't recognize her at first and so treated her as a new turtle, recording both left and right profiles.
Then she tired of the attention, spread her flippers to leave, and Peter noticed she wore tags. He approached her to get a read. At this point, the turtle was up and then--those feet. Those unmistakeable feet! No need to read the tag, although Peter got a clear look at it anyway.
It was Shredder, and Peter stopped to admire her as she calmly lifted for air. It was wonderful to see her again, but there is bad news. Shredder has a small tumor growing in each of her eyes. This wonderful old female now has fibropapilloma disease.
The good news is that it's a very light case right now. The turtle's large and adult and that means she has a chance at fighting the disease succesfully. With any luck she just may make our regression "list" for Summer 2000.
That is, if she isn't nesting at East Island, French Frigate Shoals instead!
In June 2000, George Balazs confirmed Shredder (A240) was nesting at the French Frigate Shoals. He wrote:
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 16:36:15 -1000 (HST)
From: "George H. Balazs"
To: Peter Bennett , Ursula Keuper-Bennett
> Shredder says she's nesting on East Island. Sorry to miss you this summer, though she may catch you at the tail end of your time here. Watch for a new mototool! Signed, the Good News Messenger.
Good news it was--turtles have to be healthy to nest! That spoke well of her FP status! Even better, the good news came complete with pictures. Is there any doubt this is Shredder? With those feet?
We really didn't expect to see Shredder, if for no other reason than considering her girth, she's not the most aerodynamic of turtles and likely was too slow a swimmer to make the return journey home in time for us to see her.
Well, we certainly were wrong. Shredder not only returned home but now holds the record as the quickest returnee, returning well before the end of August.
On August 11th, we sighted her--appropriately enough--at Shredder's Ridge, where she was the last time we saw her in 1999. The white engraving 223U almost shouted at us from her spanking clean shell.
For the rest of the summer, we saw her almost every day, and on several occasions she allowed us to get excellent macro video of both her eyes. We can state with confidence that the small tumour lodged in her left eye in 1999 is now gone. Careful, close examination of the right held similar good news.
We tried hard to find any evidence of tumours and found none. Shredder is one lucky turtle, as are any of the hatchlings that have erupted from her nests at East Island. They start out life carrying Shredder's genes. Shredder--a turtle who battled FP and won.
Since Shredder spent last summer nesting at East Island, French Frigate Shoals we looked forward to seeing her at home for 2001. Sure enough, we saw her during our first week diving.
On a July 8th morning trip to North House, we found the large rotund female honu resting comfortably at Mt. Balazs. A quick visual check ensured no worries about the return of fibropapilloma and once we'd determined A240 was fine we "ignored" her.
Shredder really isn't one for human company. So while we see her fairly frequently, all we really do is record her presence and then let her be. We do make a closer inspection of her every two or three weeks though, just to ensure all is well.
In the case of this tagged female, she's doing as well as can be hoped in this blighted area of West Maui.
We thought Shredder would be making another nesting run to the French Frigate Shoals this summer, so she was on our watch list. She last nested in 2000, and she's been on a two year cycle since 1996. Sure enough, we couldn't find her this summer, and on August 4, George Balazs sent us email confirming that she was recorded nesting at East Island. Shredder's Ridge was deserted this summer, but we have confidence that she'll be back resting in her favourite places when we return next year.
For some reason, Shredder was a relatively late sighting in 2003. We know she wasn't nesting, but she also wasn't around until the first week of August. We usually think of Shredder as a northern turtle, meaning that in previous years we saw her at the Turtle House or North House, or quite often, at the aptly named Shredder's Ridge--all locations in the north section of our dive area. This year, however, we saw her exclusively at the southern edge of the dive site, mostly at South Park. Has Shredder migrated south? Perhaps next year will tell, but she's also on a two-year nesting cycle. We might not see her at all in 2004.
As we suspected, Shredder did migrate to the French Frigate Shoals this summer, and got a bright white mototool engraving on her shell as a result: the number 493. We finally spotted her on August 26th, the last week of diving. She looked just fine, and as we've now come to expect with all our regression cases, she has no signs of a return of FP. Interestingly, we sighted her a South PArk, so maybe she has decided to shift. We hope we'll be able to confirm this in 2005. Perhaps her switch to the south indicates where so many of our missing regulars have moved--south! It's something we'll try to explore.
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Last modified 04/11/13
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