Date: June 19, 2006
Contact: Dan Evans
Phone: (325) 373-6441
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – During the second week of June, 2006, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), through funding from The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, CT, the WWF Tortugas Marinas Program, and the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, attached satellite transmitters to the backs of criticaly endangered leatherback sea turtles after nesting on Chiriquí Beach, Panama as part of CCC’s Chiriquí Beach Hawksbill and Leatherback Research and Conservation Program.
This is the fourth year of Caribbean Leatherback Tracking & Conservation Project, and the third year of the Chiriquí Beach project. The research will help reveal important information about the turtles’ migratory behavior, which will help both conservationists and natural resource managers to improve protection efforts for this endangered species. Migration data collected over the next year will be posted on maps available for free to the public on CCC’s website.
In 2003, aware of the ongoing dramatic decline of Pacific leatherback sea turtle nesting populations and of the many threats to leatherback turtles worldwide, a leatherback monitoring and protection Program at Chiriquí Beach, Panama was started. CCC researchers have since learned that the leatherback nesting aggregations along the Costa Rican and northern Panama coasts may represent the third or fourth largest nesting population in the world and the largest along the Caribbean coast. Currently, very little is known about where these highly migratory turtles go once they leave their nesting beaches. However, this year cutting-edge satellite technology will be used to gather live data on migratory routes and behavior. This information should prove to be invaluable in future efforts at developing international conservation strategies to protect this unique species.
CCC researchers will attach small satellite transmitters to the turtles before they return to the water. A signal will be sent from the transmitter on the turtle’s backs to orbiting satellites each time the turtles surface to breath. The data will be collected and downloaded to CCC researchers. As soon as the raw data is interpreted, the location information will be used to update detailed Internet maps showing the turtles’ movements and locations. This will allow interested persons all over the world to watch along as researchers discover where the giant leatherback turtles of Chiriquí Beach travel after they leave their nesting beach in Panama.
“This state-of-the-art technology will help us learn more about a species that has existed for at least 150 million years, and because of man, is now on the edge of extinction in many areas of the world,” said David Godfrey, CCC Executive Director. “Because of the dramatic decline of nesting leatherbacks worldwide, our leatherback research and conservation efforts in Panama are becoming increasingly important. Information collected through this study will help us and others develop conservation strategies to ensure their survival through the next millennium.”
Through the CCC’s Internet-based Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program, anyone with Internet access can follow the migratory wanderings of the leatherbacks, as well as many other tagged turtles, from their homes. The education program is designed to teach people, and especially children, about sea turtles and the threats to their survival by following the movements of these giant creatures as they migrate from tropical nesting beaches to feeding grounds located hundreds or thousands of miles away. Though popular with the general public, the Program is also designed for use in a classroom setting. Teachers are invited to register on-line to receive CCC’s free Educator’s Guide, which includes useful background information, student worksheets and classroom activities. For more information, visit the CCC website at www.conserveturtles.org.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website atwww.conserveturtles.org or call (800) 678-7853.