Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire is an organization that has been working to protect endangered sea turtles since 1981. As this species is highly migratory, the organization often attaches satellite transmitters to the turtles’ backs to help “deepen our understanding of the potential threats facing these animals,” says Mabel Nava, an STCB representative. STCB is also a member of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST).
Photo Credit: Nathaniel Miller
Recently, three different species of sea turtles – loggerhead, green and hawksbill – were fitted with these high-tech transmitters on beaches near the island territory of Bonaire, Netherlands. So where did these animals go once they were in water? Here are the fascinating findings…
In 2004, satellite transmitters were attached to the backs of four female loggerheads. These individuals were tracked for four years from their breeding grounds at Klein Bonaire. Data revealed that they traveled to the offshore banks near Honduras (CC1), Nicaragua (CC3), and marine habitats close to the islands of Vieques, Puerto Rico (CC2) and Margarita, Venezuela (CC4).
This map, below, reveals the migratory route of two female green sea turtles. CM1 was tagged back in 2004 on Bonaire, and CM2 in 2007 from an unnamed beach along the southwest coast. Both turtles left the island territory for the northwest, swimming at speeds of 68.4 and 59.9 km/d. CM1 arrived in Nicaragua, while CM2 went to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Transmitter signals were eventually lost for CM2 before data indicated that she reached her foraging grounds.
During this tracking program, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire tagged a total of 11 hawksbill sea turtles – 2 males and 9 females – and they were tracked from 2003-2009. The turtles were tagged at the nesting beaches of Klein Bonaire, and the males (EI3 and EI5) stayed within 3km of the area for 93 and 151 days. Their signals were lost after 14 and 24 days at sea. The female hawksbill sea turtles left the nesting site within 1-50 days after the transmitters were applied to their backs. They were then tracked to destinations (such as the waters surrounding Honduras and Jamaica) 193-1416km from their initial site of capture.
“Hawksbill Female EI2 was tracked to waters between Mona and Monito Islands, Puerto Rico, where she arrived early January 2004,” says Mabel Nava, a Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire representative. “Then on August 12th, 2005 she was seen and captured during in-water turtle surveys at Monito Island by the exact same researcher who deployed the transmitter on Bonaire (Robert van Dam)… Her transmitter was removed, refurbished and used in another turtle the year after.”
To glimpse these beautiful ocean travelers in the wild, check out this National Geographic video of a loggerhead feasting on a lobster:
Figure Credits: Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire