We have Red Rockette’s satellite tag back! Our friends who monitor sea turtles on Bobalito Beach, Colombia, found her—even though we had lost contact with her satellite transmitter.
“Just as we were getting ready to intercept this turtle her tag appears to have stopped transmitting,” wrote Canadian sea turtle expert Dr. Mike James to the project coordinators for Bobalito beach at the beginning of April. “What bad timing! 9.5 months of tracking, and then a few days before the best chance of getting the tag, no more locations!”
Nonetheless, with faith in the value of human persistence, the team at Bobalito continued their search. Lilian Barreto Sánchez from Conservación Ambiente Colombia Foundation rounded up extra beach monitors to help look for Red Rockette. People who had motorbikes and lived nearby helped transport the monitors to various parts of the beach so that they could increase their search efforts. The beach monitors used walkie-talkies to keep in touch with each other, but struggled with reception “gaps” over large sections of beach.
The Colombian team continued to patrol the beach for weeks. Every email from Lilian reported that they hadn’t seen Red Rockette yet, but that they were determined to find her. They were determined even though they were searching (on foot) a stretch of beach more than 10 kilometres long; even though there was no guarantee Red Rockette would come back to Bobalito beach again; even though less than a handful of leatherbacks had been recorded nesting on Bobalito so far this year.
And they found her.
“It was amazing!” Lilian wrote. “We are happier than I know how to say.”
“This is a remarkable international achievement,” says Mike. “It’s really worth celebrating. It was amazing that we were able to coordinate a search for this turtle with this group despite the language barriers and the great distance separating us, and even after the satellite tag had stopped.”
It is this kind of international cooperation—and just this kind of grassroots persistence—that we need to conserve endangered leatherbacks.
Lilian is scheduled to make the trip back from Necoclí, the community near Bobalito beach, to her home in the city of Bogotá today. She is going to call us when she is there, so we will have more details to share soon.