Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Michigan State University; Independent journalist - environment, science and international news.

Fellow - International League of Conservation Writers.

Member - Society of Environmental Journalists, International Communication Association.

Conservationists tag turtle to help protect Ridleys

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Conservationists-tag-turtle-to-help-protect-Ridleys/articleshow/5655646.cms

Bishwanath Ghosh, TNN, Mar 8, 2010, 02.56am IST

CHENNAI: It's Sunday morning but the sun is yet to be up. Sumitha had been getting dressed since midnight in order to return home. Her mother meticulously prepared her for the journey as a crowd of friends eagerly watched. Finally, minutes before daybreak, she sets off on the voyage, pausing thrice for friends and photographers who have formed a receding semi-circle in front of her. Finally, the semi-circle opens up and Sumitha strides into the sea.

The good news is: Sumitha's mother and friends will now be able to track her movement and her well-being even when she is thousands of kilometres away in the sea. She now has a transmitter attached to her carapace yes, Sumitha is an Olive Ridley turtle that will send signals through satellite and help conservationists gather data that will go a long way in protecting her species.

"As sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles, they come up to the ocean surface every 40 minutes. The antenna on the satellite tag will transmit signals during this time to the satellite and by mapping these points, her path of migration can be determined. The tagging will help in studying the turtle's migratory route and areas of foraging," said Dr Supraja Dharini of TREE Foundation, who tagged Sumitha. This is the first time a sea turtle has been tagged outside Orissa, where the project was undertaken by the Wildlife Insititute of India in association with the petroleum ministry.
Sumitha was taken into custody on Saturday evening after she had finished nesting (Olive Ridleys come to nest on the same beach they had been born, even if that means swimming thousands of kilometres). The tagging began at midnight on a beach in Injambakkam, with Dr Dharini restraining the turtle in a compartment and cleaning the carapace dry. The tag was then placed atop it and attached with a strong adhesive.

The satellite was switched on by chief wildlife warden R Sundararaju, former chief wildlife warden C K Sreedharan, joint fisheries director A Satyamurthy and US consul general Andrew T Simkin. Satellite tags are radio transmitters with GPS that transmit a signal that can be detected by polar orbiting satellites. "Since data collected can be recovered by satellite even if the turtle swims hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from where it was released, the technique holds great potential for unlocking many secrets of marine turtle behaviour and ecology. The outcome of the study will be shared with the ministry of environment and forest and fisheries," said Dr Dharini.

Sumitha can be tracked on the following link http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=477. Another turtle will be tagged by the Tree Foundation during the early hours of March 14. Details on treefoundationindia.org.

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