GPS shows sea turtle drifted from Saipan to Kunigami

GPS shows sea turtle drifted from Saipan to Kunigami

A green turtle was confirmed dead after having drifted from Saipan where a GPS was attached (Photograph taken by Muneyuki Kayo on August 16 at Iji, Kunigami)

September 4, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

A female green turtle, an endangered species, was found dead at Iji, Kunigami, after having laid eggs in Saipan. Sea turtles drifting 2,000 kilometers from Saipan to Japan is a rare event. A GPS satellite tag, attached to the turtle’s shell by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), enabled researchers to track the turtle. Such data on green turtles’ travelling routes and ecological system is rare and yet to be fully examined, so the finding is expected to be important for the protection of the species.

The green turtle’s body is considered large, with a width of 102.6 cm and a length of 76.8 cm. According to a confirmation from U.S. researchers in Saipan, the turtle laid eggs in Saipan on June 1, two and half months before the body was found on the beach in Iji. The cause and exact time of its death is unknown.

A member of the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, Muneyuki Kayo, who was contacted by the first person to discover the turtle, surveyed the body at the site with students from the Sea Turtle Research group at the University of the Ryukyus, confirming it to be the endangered turtle species. The body was temporarily stored with the Okinawa Churashima Foundation. Respecting the rights of the installers of the tag, the group will send it to NOAA after confirming the contact person in the States, who is expected to share findings after examining the ecological system of the species.

There is a record from November 2007 of two green turtles being captured by a trap net around Yomitan village after laying eggs in the Republic of Palau.

The Section Head of the Research Center at the Okinawa Churashima Foundation, Isao Kawazu, spoke of the importance of promoting exchange of information and accumulation of data with research institutions overseas. “If we don’t understand how green turtles move and how they live, we can’t understand how to protect them. It is increasingly crucial to keep data,” says Kawazu.

(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma) 

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