Turks & Caicos Students Meet Tagged Sea Turtles

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School students on Providenciales had an opportunity to meet four sea turtles who were tagged with satellite transmitters as part of the turtle project. The project, initiated in 2008, is a collaborative assignment by the Department of Environment & Coastal Resources (DECR), Amanyara and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), UK.

The turtles were caught by experienced South Caicos Fishermen, Mr. Dave Clare and Mr. Gilbert Jennings, and the project scientists tagged and released four sizeable green sea turtles over a period of five days. The turtles were tagged at the National Environmental Centre, at the DECR, and while this was being done school students had the opportunity to learn and ask the scientists questions about the turtles, the tagging process, as well as meet the turtles face-to-face.

“When I first saw the turtle I was scared, but I see that they are gentle animals that we should look after. I love turtles!”, said one student.

Gaining an understanding of the movements of sea turtles is far from a simple task: turtles spend most of their life at sea, below the surface and tend to migrate long distances during different developmental, breeding and adult feeding phases. Recent technical advancements and the use of satellite transmitters have greatly increased our knowledge of local turtle migrations.

“The DECR is excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with the public and private sector to understand more about sea turtles in the TCI and how they use the marine environment here, as well as where they migrate to. It has also been rewarding and inspiring to have students involved in the experience, and we hope they stay engaged with the project, track the turtles over the coming months, and continue to ask questions and learn about the amazing natural environment in the TCI.” said Katharine Hart, DECR Environmental Officer.

Sea Turtles are very special animals, for a number of reasons, here are some fun facts about sea turtles: The oldest known sea turtle fossils date back about 150 million years, making them some of the oldest creatures on Earth. They love to travel, and some species can travel more than 10,000 miles every year. When it’s time to lay their eggs, female sea turtles return to the same nesting grounds where they were born, however since they don’t have to return to land to lay eggs, males almost never leave the ocean. During incubation, sex is determined by the temperature of the surrounding environment. Warm temperatures tend to produce more female hatchlings, whereas cooler temps result in males It is estimated that only one hatchling in a thousand will make it to adulthood.

Green sea turtles can stay underwater for up to five hours, but their feeding dives usually only last five minutes or less. There are seven species of sea turtles, six of which are either threatened or endangered. Humans pose the biggest threat to a sea turtle’s survival, which contributes to problems such as entanglement, habitat loss and consumption of their eggs and meat.

The DECR respectfully requests that anyone encountering a satellite tagged turtle in TCI waters please leave the animal alone, but report the sighting to DECR at environment@gov.tc or 342-7729.

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