PALAU MONITORING PROGRAM TRACKS TURTLE MIGRATION

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By Nazario Rodriguez Jr. KOROR (Palau Horizon, Oct. 11) - A green sea turtle from Helen Island in Palau has been sending feedback through a satellite transmitter to the National Marine Turtle Conservation and Monitoring Program in Palau under the Bureau of Marine Resources.

[PIR editor’s note: Helen Island is the southernmost atoll island in the Palau islands’ chain. It is located southwest of Palau’s main islands.]

William Andrew, Senior Conservation Officer at the Helen Reef Project mounted the transmitter satellite at the carapace of the green turtle named Hocharihi last week.

Andrew successfully intercepted the turtle after she finished laying her eggs.

Marine Turtle Conservation and Monitoring Program Coordinator Joshua Eberdong has received two updates on the position of the turtle as she swims around Helen Reef, where the sea turtles create hundreds of nests.

Report also revealed that nearly every night during the peak nesting season, several turtles crawl onto the beaches of Helen Reef to deposit between one and 187 eggs in a nest.

The Monitoring Program suspected that green turtles migrate hundreds or thousands of miles across the Pacific to lay their eggs in Palau. "Tracking this turtle’s migration with a satellite transmitter will show how fast and how far Hocharihi moves," the Monitoring Program said.

It said that satellite tracking would add to the database of information that the national turtle office is compiling.

Through the help of dedicated conservation officers, particularly on Helen Reef, Merir, and Kayangel, over 1,200 nests have been surveyed in Palau since 2003 and 223 turtles have been tagged.

[PIR editor’s note: Merir is a small island located between Helen and Palau’s main islands, whereas Kayangel—one of Palau’s 16 states—comprises the group of atoll islands north of Palau’s largest island of Babeldaob.]

The Marine Turtle Conservation and Monitoring Program is looking forward to putting two more satellite transmitters on sea turtles.

Eberdong would be traveling to Helen Reef this month to participate in mounting another transmitter.

In order for the public to fully understand the importance of sea turtles to humankind, the Monitoring Program wants to share excerpts from a book by Carl Safina entitled "Voyage of the Turtle, In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur."

Safina has been to Palau several times to conduct research on turtles for this book.

"There exists a presence in the ocean, seldom glimpsed in waking hours, best envisioned in your dreams. While you drift in sleep, turtles, ride the curve of the deep, seeking their inspiration from the sky. From tranquil tropic bays or nightmare maelstroms hissing foam, they come unseen to share our air. Each sharp exhalation affirms, ‘Life yet endures.’ Each inhaled gasp vows, ‘Life will continue.’ With each breath they declare to the stars and wild silence. By night and by lights, sea turtles glide always, their parallel universe strangely alien, yet intertwining with ours," Safina noted in the book.

The Marine Turtle Conservation and Monitoring Program also quoted the book as saying that "Riding the churning ocean’s turning tides and resisting no urge, they move, motivated neither by longing nor love nor reason, but tuned by a wisdom more ancient -- so perhaps more trustworthy -- than thought. Through jewel-hued sultry blue lagoons, through waters wild and green and cold, stroke theses angles of the deep -- ancient, ageless, great-grandparents of the world."

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