By Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire
On September 12th 2013, Carolien, a female Hawksbill Sea Turtle, crawled ashore to lay what would be her final nest of the season on Klein Bonaire. 85 days and over 5,000 km (3,000 mi) later Carolien would reach Honduras - the sixth country visited along her lengthy migration home. The coastal waters around Honduras are likely to be Carolien’s “home foraging ground”, where she spends the majority of her adult life. Bonaire's breeding turtles like Carolien return to Bonaire - “their place of birth” - every two to three years to breed and, if female, nest.
Equipped with a satellite transmitter fixed to her carapace, this critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle became the 24th turtle tracked by Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire. Identifying sea turtles' migratory routes and distant foraging grounds aids understanding of the species and provides valuable information in support of strategies for regional conservation.
No signal has been received from Carolien’s transmitter since December 26th, meaning it is likely out of battery, broken, or detached from her carapace. However, Carolien had been in the same location - 135 km (84 miles) northeast of Honduras for three weeks, indicating her migration was likely complete. This general area, where Honduran, Colombian and Panamanian waters come together, has proven to be of great importance to Bonaire’s breeding turtles - eight of the 24 tracked have returned here.
Carolien’s migration path was unusual and not highly efficient to reach Honduras. She left Bonaire west to visit the coastal waters of both Curaçao and Aruba, cruised across the Caribbean Sea west at a rapid pace (for several days she averaged 7.4 kph or 4.6 mph!), then looped around south in Panamanian waters of the Kuna Yala Archipelago, only to return north again through Colombian, Nicaraguan and eventually Honduran waters. Despite being known as exceptional navigators, sea turtles do make migration errors, which perhaps explains Carolien’s 5,000 km (3,000 mi) swam to reach a destination only 1,600 km (1,000 mi) away. It is also typical however, for sea turtles to use ‘stopover’ areas to help refuel energy on their journey home.
Great Migration Game Winners
The third year of the “Great Migration Game” had 50 participants make their prediction and follow Carolien’s satellite feed live online to her home foraging grounds. Congratulations to the winner, Glenny Albertina, whose prediction was only 130 km (80 mi) from Carolien’s last transmission! Glenny wins a brand new Blackberry and full year of service. Naiguata Winklaar (150 km, 93 mi) and Mikyla Klamm (200 km, 124 mi) finished close behind Glenny in second and third place. Chris Ball, Marie Algra, Jan and Amber Brouwer, Max Walraven, Marijke Polspoel, Shakir Boekhoudt and Erwin Plessers round out the top ten, who all receive their choice of STCB merchandise.
STCB's 2013 satellite tracking is made possible thanks to generous financial support from the Valley Foundation. The mission of the Valley Foundation is to support projects that are focused on providing access to fresh water for nature and for humans.
Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) is a non-governmental research and conservation organization that has been protecting sea turtles since 1991. Our mission is to ensure the protection and recovery of Bonaire's sea turtle populations throughout their range.