Cyber-Age Turtles to Cruise the Caribbean

Date: July 18, 2000
Contact: Dan Evans
Phone: (325) 373-6441

TORTUGUERO, COSTA RICA – During July 19-21, 2000, the nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) attached satellite-transmitters to the shells of green turtles after they nest on the beach at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. By following the movements of the transmitter-bearing turtles, CCC researchers expect to learn important details about the turtles’ migratory behavior, which will help both conservationists and natural resource managers to improve protection efforts for this endangered species.

Tortuguero is home to the largest remaining green turtle nesting colony in the Western Hemisphere. Each year, thousands of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) from all over the Caribbean swim to Costa Rican waters to mate and lay their eggs in the black, volcanic sand of Tortuguero National Park. Since the mid-1950s, CCC has been conducting annual research and protection efforts at Tortuguero, making the organization’s Program at Tortuguero one of the longest running species conservation efforts in the world. In addition to helping save sea turtles from extinction, CCC’s more than four-decade-long tagging Program has revealed a wealth of information about where green turtles travel throughout the Caribbean after nesting at Tortuguero. However, this year, for the first time, cutting-edge satellite technology will be used to gather live data on migratory routes and behavior.

Once the small transmitters are attached and the turtles return to the water, a signal will be sent to orbiting satellites each time the turtles surface to breath. The data collected by the satellites and downloaded to CCC will tell researchers about the turtles’ locations, dive times, and the temperature of the surrounding sea water. As soon as researchers interpret the raw data, the location information will be used to update detailed maps showing the turtles’ locations. This will allow people all over the world to watch along as researchers discover where the famous turtles of Tortuguero travel after they leave their nesting beach in Costa Rica.

“This state-of-the-art technology will help us learn more about a species that has existed for at least 150 million years,” said David Godfrey, CCC Executive Director. “In this century, the Caribbean green turtle has come perilously close to extinction. Information collected through this study will help us develop conservation strategies to ensure their continued survival.”

Through the CCC’s Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program, anyone with Internet access can follow along right from their homes. The education Program is designed to teach people about sea turtles and the threats to their survival by allowing the public to follow 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 40-page Educator’s Guide, which includes useful background information, student worksheets and classroom activities. For more information, visit the the Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program section of this website.

CCC is conducting this green turtle migration study in partnership with Dr. Anne Meylan of the Florida Marine Research Institute, with funding provided by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and technical assistance provided by NMFS researchers Barbara Schroeder and George Balazs. Additional funding for the Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program has been provided by the Disney Conservation Fund, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America and the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust (A Key Bank Trust).

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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 or call (800) 678-7853.