25 September 2009

Suzie and Jerry

You might remember back in June, in a post titled Suzie, Jessee wrote about a big Green Sea Turtle that was getting some high-tech accessories installed. The other morning we got word from the same researchers that a second captured turtle was getting a satellite tracking device. This time it was a big Hawksbill, affectionately called Jerry. While Suzie was the first turtle caught in TCI to ever get such a device, Jerry is the first male turtle to ever get one, worldwide. In fact, we were told by one of the researchers that male turtles are extremely rare. They're almost never seen and so almost nothing is known about them. That makes the data that will be collected about Jerry's movements very important.


Jerry was captured by some fisherman at the nearby Fish Cay. Turtle harvesting is legal in TCI (despite Hawksbills being listed as "critically endangered" by the IUCN). The researchers monitor the dock for turtles that are brought in and the fishermen usually cooperate, allowing them to take data before they're cleaned and eaten. Fortunately for Jerry, he was rare enough to intervene. The fact that the price the researchers would pay had not yet been negotiated even after his transmitter had been installed gives some indication as to how important keeping Jerry alive was (or that a trusting relationship has been established between the two parties).

For updates on each of the turtles you can follow these links:
Suzie: http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?tag_id=90740
Jerry: http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?tag_id=90736 (for some reason Jerry is listed as female on this site, but then properly refered to as "he" below).

Suzie's Progress

Presumably recovering from the stress of her capture, Suzie didn't go far for about two months, but as you can see from her map, she's currently offshore of the British Virgin Islands, some 500 miles away from where she was released (just picture the scene from Finding Nemo where the turtles cruise the ocean currents)! Her waypoints show up somewhat sporadically on the map, sometimes disappearing for days, because a signal cannot be transmitted from underwater. Turtles usually surface about every 45 minutes (presumably less often when sleeping), but Suzie and Jerry have to stay on the surface longer for a point to be registered (there are sensors that turn the transmitter off to save battery power while they're submerged, and they need to dry to activate it). It will be very interesting to follow Jerry to get some idea of just where all the male turtles go.

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