Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Turtle tracking in the Turks & Caicos!

6 green turtles released into the wild and new satellite tag fitted!

It was a busy end to 2012 for our Turks and Caicos Islands Turtle Project where MCS’ Amdeep Sanghera organised the release of 6 green turtles into the wild at Coral Gardens, Provo. Nesting green turtles are very rare in this part of the Caribbean but these hatchlings were found stranded in a couple of emerged nests in November 2010. They were then raised in captivity until ready for release. The turtles were in great health and now there are 6 more rare TCI born and bred green turtles back in the wild!

Also, Sir Patrick, the latest sub-adult green turtle to be fitted with a satellite tag by the project project, was released back on the Caicos Banks. Sir Patrick’s tag was generously sponsored by local eco-tour company Big Blue Ltd., who named the turtle in honour of the late great astronomer Sir Patrick Moore. Since release, Sir Patrick’s tag has frequently been in communication with satellites orbiting in space to tell us that he is remaining close to the famous Ocean Hole where he was caught and released. To follow the journeys of our satellite tagged turtles, go to

6 green turtles released to the wild in TCI and Sir Patrick ready to go with his newly fitted satellite tag!

Sea Champion Emma Theobold has been collecting data on nesting green and loggerhead turtles alongside scientists and student volunteers from the Marine Turtle Research Group in Cyprus.

It's estimated that as few as 300-400 green and 2,000 loggerhead females nest annually in the area, but both species are considered regionally endangered.

Here's what Emma got up to...

Protecting the nests from predators and preventing the unwary from accidentally stepping on the nests.

Volunteers monitor the beach throughout June and July for 10 hours a night, observing nesting females, recording their behaviour, measuring and tagging individuals and protecting nests. Here's an adult green turtle digging a body pit before laying her clutch. No white lights are allowed on the beach after nightfall because they may disturb nesting adults and prevent them from laying, but red light is less intrusive so is used by volunteers.

During August and September nests are monitored all night as part of a study into hatchling emergence patterns. Here's a loggerhead hatchling! Once hatchlings emerge from the nest they head towards the brightest light source - usually the moon reflected on the water. However, lights from a nearby power station often cause hatchlings to go off course, so volunteers stand in the sea wearing a head torches to guide them in the right direction.
Sadly this juvenile green turtle had to be put down by a vet, as her carapace had been smashed and she had swallowed multiple fishing hooks. The main risks to adult turtles in the area are speedboats, fishing nets, and marine litter.

 Beach cleans are carried out weekly by volunteers to reduce the impacts of marine litter to turtles and other wildlife.

All egg fragments are counted to determine the success of the nest, and are then reburied to return the nutrients to the sand.

Click here for more information on MCS's turtle projects, or why not adopt a turtle?

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