Tag Archives: Riley

Riley and Lily Rose…and an update on our current turtle gang

Riley and Lily Rose have both been seen nesting in French Guiana! We’ve just heard from our friend Antoine Baglan, who manages the database for Association KWATA in Cayenne, French Guiana. (Antoine is also, incidentally, an amazing nature photographer.)

You know, of course, the story of Lily Rose, and why she is so special to us.

But do you remember Riley? Riley used to keep us up at night. She was one of the first Canadian leatherbacks that we tracked right into Cape Cod Bay, where she navigated the maze of fishing gear for many days. I remember Scott Landry, the director of Marine Animal Entanglement Response at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts, reviewing one of the daily Riley updates we sent and saying, “Wow. This just gets worse.”

But she thankfully got out and continued to swim down the coast of the United States. Riley was kind of like Beverly. We had tagged her as part of the Great Canadian Turtle Race, and she behaved differently from the rest of the turtles we were following that year. You can see her track below in red.

20 November 2012

And then after almost seven months of tracking, Riley’s tag stopped.

So we are thrilled to hear about her and to know that she is safe and nesting—and we are also excited to learn where she is from, which we didn’t know when we tagged her!

Below is an updated map on the turtles we’re following now. Beverly continues to entertain us with her track, looping around and down again now.


Look how far Sharon has gone! I love seeing her zip past all of those islands. You can see this in more detail in this map:


But it’s Christie we’re watching most closely now. She’s still in the nesting zone.


Her current location is off Toco point, which is a busy fishing area and the place where we lost contact with Peggy. Let’s hope she pulls a Riley and makes it through safely.

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Two maps today



Two maps today: one from this week (bottom), one from last (top). I have just been looking at them carefully, trying to spot the differences. Who has moved where? Most of the tracks have stretched out just a little more. Riley—no surprise to us at this point, perhaps—is zigzagging a bit. If you trace Koopas’ track with your finger, you’ll see it descending almost like stairs.

Our turtles are swimming their way down the length of the United States. It is Thanksgiving Day there now. And although I’m happily perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean here in Halifax, today I miss my family in Illinois. I miss how this holiday in particular gathers that country together.

I’m also thinking about our American sea turtle colleagues—the thoughtful, creative, intelligent, committed, inspiring, undeniably kooky people who are determined to keep these animals on the map. And I’m thankful for them.

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The Canadian buffet

Canadian waters are an all-you-can-eat jellyfish buffet for leatherback turtles. Atlantic leatherbacks migrate to Canada to feed on jellies. One way you can see this is by looking at their tracks. Check out the mess of spaghetti up around Atlantic Canada. Those meandering tracks show turtles foraging for months in our jellyfish-dense waters, growing fatter and fatter. Riley, whom we talked about last post, is doing something similar off New England.

And then, like clockwork, in mid- to late October, they’re done. They leave Canadian waters, and the tracks lengthen out considerably, as you can see here. Now the animals are in “migration” mode—on their way south. They’ll still eat jellies when they can find them. But you won’t see them settle in and stay like they do in Canada again until they reach the waters off the nesting beaches.

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Losing sleep


It is possible that you have not been kept up at night worrying about Riley the turtle. But we have. She has behaved differently from the other turtles we satellite tagged for the Great Canadian Turtle Race from the start. When they headed north to feed on jellyfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, she went south, dipping into U.S. waters. When we were sure she was going to keep snaking along the Eastern seaboard, she headed back up into Canada again.

There was something about New England that drew her, however, and we’ve spent the last few weeks nervously watching her swim deeper into Massachusetts Bay, slipping down into Cape Cod, where she has circled around and around in an area known for leatherback entanglements. We’ve been keeping in constant contact with our colleagues at the Provincetown Centre for Coastal Studies (PCCS) who work on disentangling leatherbacks in that area. It has been a record year for leatherback entanglements there, and they were really concerned about our turtle.

“Wow. This just gets worse,” wrote Scott Landry from PCCS after reviewing one of the daily maps Mike sent him showing Riley’s latest position.

But late last night, as we pulled up the maps to check on her one more time before bed, we discovered she had rounded Provincetown safely, heading out into the open Atlantic. We are celebrating today!

And we’re hoping that Miss Riley doesn’t take it upon herself to go back into the Bay. But you never know what these turtles will do.

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