Tag Archives: Bobalito

The beeline

2014_02_27_Map_1

Today there is good news and not-so-good news about Margaret.

The good news is that she is making a beeline for the nesting beaches of Trinidad. Check out this map.

2014_02_27_Map_2

She left coastal Barbados three days ago, and look at how close she is to Trinidad already! The nesting season has already started there, although peak season is still about two months away.

2014_02_27_Map_TrinidadIn the Atlantic, mature female leatherback turtles do not nest every year. They nest every two or three years. During their nesting years, they will generally lay around eight nests, about 10 days apart. In 2011, Margaret was recorded nesting both at Matura and Grande Riviere beaches in Trinidad. We’ve contacted our colleagues who work on those beaches, and we will continue to keep them posted about Margaret’s location. We hope that they will find her when she nests and remove her valuable transmitter so we can deploy it on another leatherback in Canada.

The not-so-good news is that the quality of the locations we’ve received from Margaret’s transmitter over the past few days has not been good. I yelled “No!” out loud this morning when Devan, our turtle technician, told me that the last series of locations were  “B” class. B-class locations are the poorest quality, and generally indicate that only two tag transmissions were received by the satellite to calculate the turtle’s position. The more transmissions the satellite receives, the better its estimate of the turtle’s location.

A long series of B location estimates—especially over several days—can mean the turtle is spending very little time at the surface of the water. It can also mean that the tag is running low on battery power or has started to “biofoul.” Biofouling is when organisms like algae and barnacles colonize on the tag. This can negatively impact the tag’s performance.

This may mean that we will lose transmissions from Margaret’s transmitter altogether—even before she makes it to the nesting beach. (You may remember this is what happened with Jacquelyn.) It doesn’t mean, however, that someone won’t find Margaret on the beach anyway. Last year, dedicated beach workers in Colombia found our turtle Red Rockette after her transmitter had stopped working. It’s just a lot harder to do.

I hate when this happens just when the animals are so close to nesting! But at least we know where Margaret is heading. Stay tuned…

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Red Rockette’s tag is back!

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Red Rockette wins!

In the early hours of this morning, Red Rockette nested on a beach in Colombia called Bobalito, near the community of Necoclí.

We are thrilled!

The first of the maps below shows her whole track—all the way from Nova Scotia to Colombia. The second is a closer view of her more recent positions in relation to the Colombian coast. The third—my favourite—shows her movements between 8:49 p.m. COT (Colombia time, which is 10:49 p.m. Halifax time) yesterday evening and 8:23 a.m. COT (10:23 a.m. Halifax time) today.

2013_Mar28_RedRockette_EntireTrack

2013_Mar28_RedRockette_MidZoom

2013_Mar28_RedRockette_ClosestZoom_labels

This turtle, whose movements are being watched so carefully by so many of us, laid her first nest without encountering a human. And although there is something lovely about imagining her alone carefully carving out that nest in the moonlight, we want someone to find her next time. We want her satellite tag back!

Leatherbacks nest several times a season. Red Rockette will come back to land to nest again in a week or so. We are lucky to have help from our friends at the Conservación Ambiente Colombia Foundation (CACF). CACF supports a relatively new sea turtle program at Bobalito Beach. Community leaders from the village of El Lechugal—which used to poach almost all of the nesting turtles—launched a conservation program at Bobalito to protect the animals, engaging their community in projects like sea turtle monitoring and environmental education.

Thanks to our colleagues at CACF, the community had already begun patrolling Bobalito in anticipation of Red Rockette nesting—long hours of walking slowly up and down the many kilometers of beach. However, now that we know Red Rockette has nested on Bobalito once already, even more community members will begin patrolling the beach to increase our chance of finding the turtle next time.

It is difficult to communicate with Bobalito—there is minimal cell coverage and Internet access. But CACF is working hard on our behalf to establish a communication chain that will allow our updates of Red Rockette’s positions to reach the community quickly.

Now we have to hope for a couple of things: We have to hope that Red Rockette’s satellite tag keeps transmitting and we have to hope that she chooses to nest on Bobalito again. If she moves even a little to the east near the community of Mulatos the odds of finding her aren’t as good. The beach at Mulatos is very long and the sea turtle program there is only just beginning.

So now—again—we wait!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,