St. Kitts Leatherback Turtle Makes it to Cape Cod

A female leatherback sea turtle bearing flipper tags (from 2005) from St. Kitts was captured August 9, 2012 off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, by a research team led by Kara Dodge, a University of New Hampshire PhD student. This important news for those monitoring the sea turtles such as the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network and the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network, among others. Leatherback sea turtles are critically endangered; their population has been reduced by more than 80% over the last century.

The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) received this very exciting news Tuesday via Prof. Julia Horrocks, the Coordinator of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network’s (WIDECAST) Marine Turtle Tagging Centre at the University of West Indies in Barbados, who supply the flipper tags used by the SKSTMN.

Ms. Dodge’s research focuses on the movements and behaviour of leatherbacks in their foraging grounds off Cape Cod. Her team uses a breakaway hoopnet to catch them and then tracks them with GPS-linked satellite tags (see photos). This leatherback was only the second tagged female that had been captured over the course of the project, which has been running for four years and includes capture of adult males, females, and subadults. [. . .] The transmitter placed on her will provide important data over the course of the next few months and will enable scientists and the public to track her movements online. Kitty’s movements can now be tracked online by going to this link <http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/index.shtml?keyword=Kitty>.

Kitty was only the third leatherback sea turtle to be flipper tagged in St. Kitts during the SKSTMN’s first year of leatherback night patrols in 2005. She was originally tagged on 26 April 2005 while nesting on Keys Beach and then returned to nest on Keys Beach three times in 2007, once on North Friars in 2009, and twice on Keys Beach in 2011. The SKSTMN expects to see Kitty again on the nesting beaches in St. Kitts in 2013 if she follows her established schedule.

It is not unusual for female leatherback sea turtles to migrate over 10,000 miles between their nesting and foraging grounds. This highly migratory nature makes them a shared resource both regionally and internationally and drives home the importance of sharing critical biological information gathered on both the nesting beaches and foraging grounds. Fortunately for Kitty, St Kitts has already taken steps to protect her nesting ground through the designation of the UNESCO St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve that includes Keys Beach, the main leatherback nesting beach on the island. [. . .]

More information on Cape Cod leatherback research can be found at <http://www.tunalab.org>. For more information on sea turtles and regulations regarding them in St. Kitts please visit http://www.stkittsturtles.org. Please report any sea turtle sightings, nesting events, etc. to the Sea Turtle Hotline at [869] 764-6664 or the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources at [869] 465-8045.

The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) [. . .] was founded in January 2003 with the mission to: implement a long standing sea turtle conservation management program under the direction of the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources; promote community awareness of the plight of sea turtles; and provide non consumable sources of income to communities as an alternative to the sea turtle harvest in an effort to decrease pressure on St. Kitts turtle populations.

For more information on the SKSTMN visit www.stkittsturtles.org

For original article, see http://www.sknvibes.com/news/newsdetails.cfm/62158

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