SPACE AGE TURTLES IN COOK ISLANDS

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By Jacqui Evans

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (December 21, 2000 – Cook Islands News)---Turtles in the Cook Islands have entered the space age!

The first turtle in the Cook Islands to be monitored by satellite has been released from Palmerston Island. Researchers will now be able to track the turtle's migration route in real time using the information beamed to the satellite from the tag on the turtle's back.

The tagging was done on a Green Turtle dubbed 'Mama Marsters' after she finished laying her eggs on a beach at Cooks Motu, Palmerston Island.

Researcher Hoyt Peckham from Cook Islands Whale Research is currently on Palmerston working with Fisheries officer Bill Marsters. They took about two hours to attach the tag -- about the size of a videocassette -- onto Mama Marsters' shell using fiberglass. She was released unharmed immediately afterwards.

The information will prove invaluable for researchers in the Cook Islands and Hawai‘i, in unlocking such mysteries about the life cycle of the Green Turtle: Where do they go? How long do they stay away? Do they return to the same place to lay their eggs?

Peckham says the tagging project has generated much community interest on Palmerston. "Already they are asking how they will be updated on Mama Marsters' position!" he says.

George Balazs of the Pacific Marine Turtle Research Program, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, provided the satellite tag.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will be releasing data on the position of Mama Marsters -- in the newspaper and to schools -- throughout the tracking period.

The tagging project is also supported by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, the Boston (USA) based Conservation Action Fund and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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