Bermuda Turtle Project Continues to Amaze

Issue 2, 2012 Article:

* Bermuda Turtle Project Continues to Amaze
* Leatherback nesting trends in Costa Rica and Panama

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Bermuda Turtle Project Continues to Amaze

Bermuda is one of a few locations on earth where immature green turtles occur in the complete absence of adults. The shallow grass flats of Bermuda provide excellent grazing areas for developing green turtles, which may make Bermuda one of the best sites in the world to study juvenile green turtles in their natural habitat.

The Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP) was initiated in 1968 by Sea Turtle Conservancy Board member Dr. H. Clay Frick II, in cooperation with the Bermuda Government. Since 1991, the project has been a collaborative effort of STC, the Bermuda Aquarium, Bermuda Zoological Society and Drs. Peter and Anne Meylan.

The research efforts of the BTP focus on filling in information gaps on green turtle biology and migration in order to protect these fascinating animals. The in-water turtle tagging project is the longest-running project of this kind in the world and has developed into a multifaceted study of sea turtles. Whereas most studies of sea turtles take place on nesting beaches, Bermuda provides STC scientists and our partners with a unique opportunity to conduct studies of the little understood juvenile stage of green turtles within a globally important sea turtle developmental habitat.

In addition to the annual research, every year since 1996 the BTP has offered an international course on sea turtle biology and conservation. The two-week course includes daily lectures, discussions of assigned readings, a session on conducting necropsies, guest presentations, and extensive field work capturing and tagging immature sea turtles. This year, STC received a letter from Yosvani Aguirre Zurtiga, who wrote to report that a green turtle tagged as part of the Bermuda Turtle Project on August 14, 1996, was caught injured, but alive near Moa, Holguin Province, Cuba. While the turtle was found in Cuba in April 2010, the letter just managed to reach STC this year. The turtle was found nearly dead, tangled up in netting in the mangroves in Cuba, and was rescued, rehabilitated and released by a fisherman and his son. Below is the English translation of Yosvani’s letter recounting his amazing story.


My name is Yosbanì. I am from Cuba and live in Moa, Holguin Province. I am writing you because I have a boat that I use to go fishing and take trips around the area. Last month I was enjoying the day with my family traveling in our boat to go camping at a nearby beach. At noon I took a walk along the shoreline with my son. After walking about 1 km we stopped in the mangroves so my son could take a look at the amazing different species of crabs and birds that can be found there. We started to walk in between the mangroves when we found pieces of fishing nets that were stuck among the roots. I realized after releasing the net from the roots that a turtle was in the net.

The poor animal appeared to be dying. I assumed this because the animal did not move and was soft, and from what I know these animals are very hard. My son and I decided to take it with us so my family could see a real turtle. We were all so excited for the opportunity to see an animal of this species, but we felt sad because of its condition. The turtle was battered and had a wound on one of its flippers and on the head.

We then decided to leave it on top of a cooler since the animal did not move at all and we kept enjoying our day at the beach. A curious thing happened later when one of us went back to grab a drink from the cooler. The turtle was no longer on the cooler but on the sand and we knew none of us put it there. Thus, we decided to take the turtle back home with us so we could heal its wounds caused by the net. After several weeks of intense care, when the turtle was completely healed, I made the decision to take it out of the tank with sea water I had prepared for her, and bring it to the ocean close to the place where we first found it. The turtle did not hesitate when we released her; she quickly swam back offshore.

I felt nostalgic when the turtle left because I got very attached to the animal. To spend time with it was an unforgettable experience, but for its own sake it was important to return her to its natural habitat. I have decided to write to you now because the turtle is back on its natural habitat and also because I noticed the turtle had a tag with your address on the back of the tag. I thought it was important to tell you my experience and the fate of this turtle.

The tag number was X5436. We do not know how to speak English, but l believe you would like to know the location of the animals tagged by your department.

It is my hope that I did not make a mistake on trying to save this turtle and get in contact with you. From what I could observe by looking at the tag, you must be from a group where you take very seriously the care of animals. I imagine you would have or will have beautiful experiences when dealing with different animals whether they are endangered or not. I have experienced a pleasant adventure with this turtle and hope once you read this letter you would get in contact with me the same way I have contacted you. It would be a pleasure for me to have American friends. I am looking forward to hearing from you in the very short term.