‘Billie’ wins leatherback turtle race

This is a leatherback turtle video.

Reuters reports:

“Billie” the turtle wins Costa Rica sea race

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, April 27 – A leatherback turtle called Billie won the first Great Turtle Race from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands, swimming at a leisurely 3 or 4 mph (5-6 kph), organizers said on Friday.

Satellite tracking of 11 tagged turtles showed Billie sprinting away from the main group to make it first to the finish zone.

Two turtles failed to get past the starting line, and another, Purple Lightning, veered miles off course.

Some 600,000 people logged on to the web site of the two-week Pacific Ocean marathon (www.greatturtlerace.com), aimed at drawing attention to the endangered species whose numbers have plummeted 95 percent over the past 20 years.

The coffee table-sized turtles, which were around at the same time as dinosaurs, are dying in accidental captures by long-line fishing boats and losing nesting areas because of coastal development, said Lisa Bailey, spokeswoman for Conservation International, one of the race organizers.

At Playa Grande, a key nesting ground in northern Costa Rica where the race started, only 50 turtles showed up to lay eggs this year, down from 1,500 in 1989, Bailey said.

The 500-mile (805-km) race was a virtual replay of the tracks of turtles that were tagged and released at different times last February for their annual migration.

Sponsors paid $25,000 to back a turtle, $10,000 of which went for the satellite tracking tag. Some of the money will be used to buy nesting land and save it from developers.

Winner Billie was sponsored by the Offield Center for Billfish Studies in Oceanside, California.

The runner-up turtle was Stephanie Colburtle, named after comedian Stephen Colbert who followed its progress on his Comedy Central show.

Bailey said the information gathered in the race would have a scientific purpose. “This is no publicity stunt,” she said.

Leatherback turtle in Ireland: here.

American marine turtles in British waters: here.

Global warming trouble for migratory animals: here.

8 thoughts on “‘Billie’ wins leatherback turtle race

  1. May 13, 6:47 AM EDT

    Turtle tries to lay eggs near NYC rink

    NEW YORK (AP) — A determined turtle crawled up a flight of stairs and trudged toward Central Park’s ice skating rink in an apparent urge to lay eggs near the rink, park officials said.

    The 20-pound snapping turtle turned up near the Wollman Rink three times on Friday, according to park officials. The animal’s first foray was at about 7:30 a.m., said Douglas Blonsky, the president of the Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit group that manages the park.

    The reptile was returned each time to a nearby pond, sometimes in a wheelbarrow.

    Turtles are a common sight in Central Park. Their namesake Turtle Pond was redesigned in 1997 specifically to accommodate them and other animals. Among other changes was a new island with sandy spots suitable for turtles to lay eggs, according to the conservancy.

    © 2007 The Associated Press.


  2. India killing rare turtles, say Greenpeace

    By Krittivas Mukherjee in Mumbai

    June 09, 2007 12:27am
    Article from: Reuters

    A PORT being built on India’s eastern coast is a “killing field” of rare Olive Ridley turtles and other marine life, and should be shut down, Greenpeace said today.

    It said the Dhamra port in Orissa state, being built by Indian conglomerate Tata group, is close to the beaches of Gahirmatha, one of the few remaining mass nesting sites of the Olive Ridleys in the world.

    The group recently conducted a 40-day study of the ecology around the port site and came across more than 2000 turtles, rare horseshoe crabs, crab-eating frogs, dolphins and snakes, killed by mechanised fishing boats.

    The port site is not a turtle nesting ground, but is part of the breeding and feeding ground for many species and is intrinsically rich in bio-diversity, it said.

    “The Tatas, who claim to be a socially responsible company, now have to decide if they want to place profits above environment,” Ashish Fernandes, Greenpeace’s oceans campaigner, told a conference.

    “We have an incontrovertible scientific critique of their project and we have sent a report to them as well.”

    The Tatas had earlier said the port would not harm the turtles and if it did they would not build the project, Fernandes said.

    “The port is being built after obtaining all necessary clearance from the relevant authorities,” Santosh Mohapatra, chief executive of Dhamra Port Company Limited, told Reuters.

    “Not only did the National Environment Appellate Authority say the port site is unsuitable for turtle nesting but also it is suitably far from the mass nesting site.”

    Work has just begun on Dhamra port, an all-weather facility expected to be operational by the end of 2009.

    The port’s draught is 18m, which would make it India’s deepest port.

    Its 13 berths can handle more than 80 million tonnes of cargo a year.

    “Once you have a port it will lead to ancillary development. This is not good news for the local ecology,” said SK Dutta, a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature group, which conducted the Greenpeace study.

    Hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridleys swim up to Orissa’s beaches every year to nest, but their numbers are falling drastically, victims of government neglect and rapid industrialisation.

    Greenpeace says more than 120,000 turtles have been washed up dead on Orissa’s shores in the past 12 years, most caught in the nets of trawlers, which the law says should not be there.

    Total deaths could have been significantly higher.



  3. Namibia: A Rare Visitor to the Beach

    The Namibian (Windhoek)

    18 June 2007
    Posted to the web 18 June 2007

    Adam Hartman

    A LARGE leatherback sea turtle (dermochelys coriacea) washed up at Langstrand between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund on Saturday.

    It happened only days after the release of the By-Catch Report compiled by the World Wildlife Fund, Birdlife and the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) project, which assesses the impact of commercial long-line and trawler fishing on seabirds, turtles and sharks.

    Several of these turtles have washed up on the beaches near Walvis Bay and Swakopmund over the last two years.

    Although the reason for this has not been verified, it may be tied to the findings of the report.

    According to the report, the leatherback is one of five known species or turtle occurring in the Benguela region of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Along with the hawksbill turtle, the leatherback is classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union.

    Although the report acknowledges that these turtles become victims of the long-line fishing industry – which targets tuna and swordfish – it says there are few reports of this happening in Namibia.

    On a global scale, 200 000 leatherbacks a year are by-catch victims.

    Within the Benguela region, which stretches from Angola to the south-western coast of South Africa, an average of 4 000 turtles a year are caught unintentionally by fishing vessels.

    It is estimated that 670 turtles a year are caught in Namibian waters.

    It is assumed that not all the turtles caught are brought on deck, and that many escape from the hooks, but drown or die because of their injuries and wash up on the beach.

    In his speech at the launch of the report, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Abraham Iyambo emphasised that seabirds and turtles are caught accidentally, given that there is no local industry targeting these species for commercial purposes.


  4. Endangered sea turtles make big comeback in S. Florida this year

    By Jennifer Gollan
    South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    Posted June 25 2007

    They outlived dinosaurs, only to wind up on the endangered species list. Now, leatherback turtles are poised to make something of a mild resurgence this year.

    With a few weeks to go in the nesting season, “Anecdotal reports show this could be a record year statewide for leatherback turtle nests,” said Meghan Koperski, environmental specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    The state record, 935 nests, was set in 2001, Koperski said. Florida began keeping records in 1989.

    So far, 39 nests have turned up in Broward County, closing in on the record of 41 set in 1997, said Lou Fisher, a natural resource specialist for the Broward County Environmental Protection Department. The county started keeping track in 1981.

    Five species of turtles nest in Florida: loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley.

    It is too early to determine how the strong showing of leatherbacks compares with the other sea turtle species. Leatherbacks nest from March to July; most others nest through October.

    Leatherbacks were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1970 after being overhunted for their eggs and harvested for human consumption in places like Asia and South America. Adding to leatherbacks’ plight: the threat of entanglement in fishing nets and lines.

    A conservation push ensued. Beginning in the late 1980s, some cities introduced stricter lighting laws for beach areas. The idea was to help female turtles find dark areas to nest and for hatchlings to locate a bright horizon — their natural compass — to guide them to the ocean.

    Still, beach lights strand as many as 80,000 turtle hatchlings every year, said Robbin Trindell, biological administrator at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In the last few years, shrimp trawlers began using nets designed to prevent leatherback turtles from becoming entangled.

    “Sea turtles have been around for 150 million years,” said Soozin Lewis, a specialist with the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program. “They shouldn’t die off just because we can’t shut off our lights and because of other human challenges.”

    Lewis and other surveyors check on the nests each morning, moving them to dark pits in the beach to ensure the hatchlings can navigate to the ocean.

    Leatherbacks usually nest at night. The females spend about two hours digging a nest and lay an average of 80 eggs at a time before hiding them with sand. They take about 10 weeks to hatch.

    Given the predictions for an active hurricane season and other potential threats, Koperski cautioned this year’s numbers don’t mean a long-term resurgence for leatherbacks.

    “Because sea turtles are such long-lived animals, any sort of detrimental event would not be seen immediately reflected in nesting numbers from one season,” Koperski said.

    Erosion from an early-season hurricane “may wash them into the ocean, or if they get caught on long-line fishing lines, we won’t necessarily see that impact for 15 to 30 years,” Koperski said.


  5. Namibia: Rare Turtle At Bird Island

    Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

    20 July 2007
    Posted to the web 20 July 2007


    A very unusual visitor, unfortunately dead, made its appearance this week just north of Walvis Bay at the artificial guano island. This leatherback turtle was washed ashore on Tuesday and found by guano collectors who are preparing for their annual harvest.

    The turtle is massive, about 1.5 metres in length with an estimated weight in the order of about 200kg. Leatherbacks are the largest turtle in the world.

    They are also very rare and found mostly in tropical waters. An eyewitness on the spot said its head and neck is the size and circumference of a man’s thigh.

    Leatherbacks are not uncommon to Namibian waters but they are seldom found alive this far south. Their favourite food is jellyfish and they often mistake floating plastic bags for their prey. Swallowing the plastic bag is usually fatal.

    Dead leatherbacks infrequently turn up on Namibian beaches.


  6. Posted on Wed, Sep. 19, 2007

    Lost: 4 turtles in sea race
    They were among 11 wearing tracking equipment.
    By Sandy Bauers
    Inquirer Staff Writer

    During a turtle census in December 2004, Epifanio Mualeri Biri, (left) a turtle guard, and Severo Mene Nsue, (right) a professor, join others in measuring a leatherback sea turtle as she covers her eggs on Moraka Beach, Equatorial Guinea.
    BARBARA L. JOHNSTON / Inquirer Staff Photographer

    During a turtle census in December 2004, Epifanio Mualeri Biri, (left) a turtle guard, and Severo Mene Nsue, (right) a professor, join others in measuring a leatherback sea turtle as she covers her eggs on Moraka Beach, Equatorial Guinea.
    Missing: Four leatherback turtles.

    Last known location: Pacific Ocean.

    In the spring, turtle researchers outfitted 11 leatherback turtles with satellite tracking equipment, gave them fanciful names and held a mock race as the creatures swam from their nesting grounds in Costa Rica to feeding grounds near the Galapagos Islands. Now they’re reporting that four of the turtles have disappeared.

    Stephanie Colburtle (named in honor of comedian Stephen Colbert) and Drexelina (sponsored by Drexel University) have been missing for more than 100 days. About 90 days ago, Windy’s transmitter went silent. Another turtle, Champiro, hasn’t been heard from for two months.

    Best case scenario: The transmitters just stopped working, as sometimes happens, Drexel turtle expert Jim Spotila said in an interview yesterday.

    But considering that humans have caused the population of leatherbacks in the eastern tropical Pacific to plummet 95 percent in the last 10 years, Spotila and others worry that these four could have been drowned after becoming ensnared in fishing longlines. Each turtle weighs about one ton.

    Given that Windy and Stephanie disappeared in prime fishing grounds west of the Galapagos, “it looks suspicious,” Spotila said.

    Or maybe they consumed plastic bags, mistaking them for the jellyfish they normally eat, and died.

    Fortunately, the race itself, which was held to raise awareness and funds for turtle conservation, was a success. Spotila said the race Web site, http://www.greatturtlerace.com, got more than 2.5 million hits.

    Stephanie was on The Colbert Report four times, and other media exposure could well have introduced the turtles to more than 90 million readers and viewers worldwide, Spotila said.

    Best of all, $250,000 was raised. Nearly half of it paid for the transmitters, but the rest is going toward conservation of the turtles’ nesting area.



  7. Pingback: Green turtle nests discovered in Senegal | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Green heron video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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