PALAU SEA TURTLES TRAVEL AS FAR AS INDONESIA

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, November 23) – Palau’s sea turtles travel as far as Indonesia or perhaps even farther according to the latest report from local conservationists who had been using satellite transmitters that are mounted into the carapace (shell) of the endangered species to track their movements and habitat.

For the first time since this experiment was launched by the Palau Marine Turtle Conservation and Monitoring Program, a green turtle that nested on Merir Island swam over 370 miles in less than 12 days, from Merir in Sonsorol State to the coastal waters of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

The report noted that it was on November 1 that PMTCMP Coordinator Joshua Eberdong mounted the transmitter on a nesting green turtle on the wild and mosquito-infested island of Merir through the help of Sonsorol Governor Damien Alvis, Lieutenant Governor William Carlos, Conservation Officer Ishmael Varnando, and Jordan Antonio.

They named the turtles as Fini Melieli, which means Lady of Merir in local dialect Sonsorolese.

Data provided by the PMTCMP showed that the turtle has a maximum carapace length of 104 cm (~3 ft, 5 in) and a curved carapace width of 101.5 cm (~3 ft, 4 in).

The PMTCMP said that this is just close to the average size of measured green turtles that nest on Merir and Helen Islands.

"Every year, green turtles lay thousands of eggs in hundreds of nests on the beaches of Merir, a remote island that is slightly more than a mile long and about a quarter of a mile wide, 250 miles southwest of Koror. This is the first evidence of a green turtle that nested in Palau swimming to Indonesian waters, presumably to forage," the PMTCMP reported.

It said that sea turtles all over the world have been tracked with satellite transmitters and they often swim hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles between nesting beaches and feeding grounds.

The turtle program said that this is the first time that local conservationists tracked a turtle via the satellite transmitter that swam from a nesting beach in Palau to the waters of another country.

"Simply protecting nesting females and eggs in Palau is not enough to ensure the future of this species. International management is necessary to ensure the survival of sea turtles," the PMTCMP noted in its report.

It said that this tracking program highlights the need for international management of highly migratory endangered species including green turtles.

It said that by signing the Convention on Migratory Species, Palau has made progress to align its management of migratory species with that of other signatory countries.

"As for Fini Melieli, the turtle program office will keep you posted on her international travels," the PMTCMP assured.

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