Trackers send out GPS signals that are uploaded whenever the turtles come up on land.
When it comes to sea turtles, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Where do they go in the months and years between nesting? How do they always know to return to the beaches where they were born to lay their own eggs? And how can we use this information to do a better job of protecting turtles throughout their lifespans?
Sending Out Signals
To learn more about turtles and their journeys, Nature Conservancy scientists and community rangers in the Solomon Islands chose 10 nesting hawksbill turtles at the Arnavon Islands and installed satellite trackers on the turtles’ backs using a gentle adhesive. The trackers send out GPS signals that are uploaded whenever the turtles come up on land — or when they rise to the ocean’s surface to take a breath while swimming.
Using these GPS fixes, our scientists will map and analyze the turtles’ movements to get a better picture of their feeding, nesting and migration behaviors. After about a year, the adhesive will disintegrate, allowing the trackers to fall off. But in the meantime, we’ll be able to gather a wealth of scientific data about the hawksbills and their travels.
Sadly, two of the tagged turtles were poached shortly after their tags were installed — a sobering reminder of the dangers that sea turtles face every day. The Conservancy is using this incident to spark discussions with local communities about turtle conservation and the value of protecting turtles.
In the meantime, the migrating sea turtles will help raise awareness by serving as conservation ambassadors. The Conservancy offered local communities in the Solomon Islands an opportunity to name four of the turtles:
- One of the turtles is named Mama Kawaki was named in honor of a newly formed women’s conservation group that is spreading the word about turtle protection.
- Galo Zulo and Alokatoe were named by the winners of a nature writing contest for primary and secondary schoolchildren.
- The final turtle will be named by Ron Taniveke, a young sea turtle hero from Choiseul Province who rescued a turtle that was tangled in a plastic bag and is now urging his community to protect turtles and reduce pollution.
Three of the other turtles — Dora, Princess Nadiana and Basoglu — were named by international donors who generously funded the satellite tagging program.
As Mama Kawaki, Dora and the other turtles travel throughout the Pacific, communities, donors and turtle lovers from around the world can follow them on our turtle tracking map. Our hope is that these special turtle ambassadors will spark new scientific insights, engage more people in conservation work and inspire people around the world to protect this amazing species.