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Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Tracking on the Web 

August 1, 2005

The movements of 12 loggerhead sea turtles along the Atlantic coastline can be tracked online at as part of a satellite telemetry research project by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). Those interested in supporting the conservation of this threatened species also have the option to adopt one of the tagged turtles online by making a donation.

WRD biologists are monitoring movements of female loggerhead sea turtles during the summer inter-nesting season in the second year of a two-year project. Twelve adult female loggerheads were captured and fitted with satellite transmitters in May after nesting on Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island on the Georgia coast. Locations are plotted online, and can be viewed by clicking on Satellite Tracking, then on Georgia Loggerhead Tracking Project 2005. The option to adopt a tracked animal is also available through this screen.

We are excited to make this information easily accessible to citizens, and hope that it will serve to educate the public about this sensitive and fascinating species, said WRD Wildlife Biologist Mark Dodd.

Transmitters will send multiple signals each day through August while the turtles are actively nesting, and less frequently afterward. WRD biologists are manually tracked the turtles by boat in June and July to make more detailed observations.

The information from the satellite gives us general movement patterns, and manual tracking by boat helps us observe fine-scale movements and habitat usage, Dodd said.

The project recently entered its second phase, as biologists study movements of the 12 females as they migrate from Georgia’s coastal waters. The year’s first recorded sea turtle hatching on Georgia’s coast occurred on Cumberland Island July 18.

Students from across the state and others submitted names for the tagged turtles. The names chosen for 2005 were Atlantica, Taylor Williams, 5th grade at Early County Elementary, Blakley, Ga.; Cabretta, submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Blackbeard Island Refuge staff; Coral, submitted by Christopher Almager, 5th grade at Early County Elementary, Blakley, Ga.; Georgia, submitted by Wyatt Gunthorpe, 2nd grade at Mansfield Elementary, Mansfield, Ga.; Gypsy, submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Blackbeard Island Refuge staff; Maureen, submitted by Taleigha Cyiark, 2nd grade at Satilla Marsh Elementary, Brunswick, Ga.; Pearl, submitted by Dalton Biggers, 3rd grade, Mansfield Elementary, Mansfield, Ga.; Queen Anne, submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Blackbeard Island Refuge staff; Sapelo Queen, submitted by the turtle crew on Sapelo Island; Sea Weed, submitted by James Parker and Cody Simpson, 5th grade, Union Point Elementary, Union Point, Ga., and Jackson White, 4th grade, Montessori School of Covington, Covington, Ga.; Teach, submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Blackbeard Island Refuge staff; and Zapala, submitted by the turtle crew on Sapelo Island.

Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is Georgia’s primary nesting sea turtle. Female loggerheads come ashore to lay their eggs from May through August, and the hatchlings return to the sea approximately 60 days later. Researchers expect Georgia’s coast will see about 1,000 loggerhead nests in 2005.

Funded primarily by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the turtle telemetry project will document movements of Georgia’s adult loggerhead sea turtles during the nesting season and compare their distributions with Georgia’s shrimp trawling activity. The study will also document migratory paths and foraging habitats of Georgia’s nesting loggerheads and compare their distributions with fishing activity.

The federal funding requires a 25 percent match from state funds, which will come from money generated by sales of the nongame wildlife specialty license plates featuring a bald eagle.

The protection and management of loggerhead nesting populations has occurred in Georgia since as early as 1964, when researchers established a nest protection program on Little Cumberland Island as a result of concern over declining nesting stocks. By 1989, all of Georgia’s barrier islands except for Williamson, Little Tybee, Pine and Wolf Islands were being monitored. In 1994, island managers adopted the Georgia Loggerhead Recovery and Habitat Protection Plan to standardize nest management procedures for the state.

To support important conservation, recreation and education efforts like the sea turtle telemetry project as well as other conservation programs for Georgia’s nongame wildlife, Georgians may purchase a wildlife license plate for their vehicles. The primary source of funding for the Nongame Wildlife and Natural Heritage Section, the plate depicts a bald eagle silhouetted before the American flag. This tag can be purchased at local county tag offices.

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