17 April 2012
Categories: Marine Campaign News
The first ever sea turtle satellite tracking project is underway in Tanzania! On the night of 26th March, the Sea Sense team camped on an isolated beach, 30km south of Dar es Salaam. After hours of waiting, a large female came to nest and we knew we were in for an exciting night! It took her two hours to find a suitable nesting site, during which time she dug several trial pits but clearly decided none of them were good enough. By 4am she had found her spot and started to deposit her leathery shelled eggs.
We waited quietly for her to finish then intercepted her on her way back to the sea. The satellite tag was carefully attached to her carapace and we took tissue samples for genetic analysis. Once activated, the tag transmits a ‘message’ to a satellite every time she surfaces to breathe. Each message provides a geographic fix of her location so we can track her movements on a daily basis.
We have named her Molly and we are keeping a close eye on her, hoping she will be safe during her migration. She has been spending most of her time within 20km of her nesting beach but over the Easter weekend she ventured as far north as Dar es Salaam. Today she is back within 5km of where she was tagged. Most sea turtles embark on long migrations after the nesting season but it is thought that some belong to ‘semi-resident’ populations. So far it seems that Molly is one of those!
The tracking project is part of an ambitious, multi-national research project called the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Project (SWIOFP). Sea Sense is working with other turtle experts in the region to identify the location of important foraging grounds and better understand the level of sea turtle interactions with industrial fisheries during the migratory period. You can follow Molly every day at www.swiofp.net