First satellite tag deployed in Pangani!

Olive returns to the sea

The unique biology of sea turtles enables us to calculate when female turtles are likely to come ashore to nest. On average, green turtles lay three clutches of eggs per season and spend 10 – 15 days at sea between clutches. Before attempting to deploy a satellite tag we had to assess our chances of actually finding a female turtle ready to nest. A quick check on nesting data collected by Sea Sense Conservation Officers identified a number of nests that had been laid in the previous two weeks. We calculated another 10 days to determine the timing of subsequent nesting events and found that 9th September in Kikokwe village, Pangani District would be our next chance.

The Sea Sense team arrived in Kikokwe village during the early evening of Monday 9th September. Three patrol teams made up of Sea Sense and six members of Kikokwe Turtle Conservation Group, set up camp for the night on each of Kikokwe’s three turtle nesting beaches (Kwa Yale, Milangoni and Mlakasa). Just as the final tent peg had been hammered into the ground, the patrol team on Milangoni beach received a call. Boni, the Sea Sense Project Officer, had come across a green turtle attempting to nest within moments of arriving at Mlakasa beach! The Milangoni beach camp was packed up immediately and the patrol team headed over to Mlakasa beach where we planned to wait quietly for the turtle to finish nesting before intercepting her on her way back to the sea. However, the turtle, who we later named Olive, had other plans that were to ensure our night became a very long one. The nesting process for a sea turtle is rather lengthy and exhausting as she must first crawl up on to the beach (a difficult task for a sea turtle) and decide on a suitable location for her nest before digging a ‘body pit’ in the sand and then a ‘nest chamber’ for her eggs. Olive proved to be quite picky and attempted this process three times before she was happy. It was five hours after first spotting Olive that she finished nesting and it was only then that we were able to intercept her in order to attach the satellite tag.

In order to keep Olive still during the satellite tag application we restrained her in a large wooden box (according to sea turtle capture best practices) and started to prepare Olive’s carapace for the satellite tag attachment. A small section of the carapace was cleaned to remove oil and dirt that would compromise the tag attachment and epoxy resin was placed onto the cleaned area. The satellite tag was positioned in the resin and checked and adjusted to ensure alignment with Olive’s head. The remaining epoxy resin was applied to all sides of the tag, shaped into a hydrodynamic mould and left to set for another five hours.

We named her Olive after a certain sailors girlfriend as the two are both known to be fickle when it comes to lovers… choosing whomever woo’s them best! Like Popeye’s Olive, our Olive also proved to be capable of getting rather angry (on account of being confined in a box, which we can hardly blame her for)! But we, like Popeye, were able to win our Olives affection in the end by pouring seawater onto her every half hour to keep her cool and calm. After a long night for all involved and as dawn broke, the resin had finally set and the box was lifted to enable Olive to return to the sea. Olive had been on the beach for nearly 10 hours by this point and was quite exhausted but with a little gentle coaxing she made her way back to the sea. We, on the other hand, needed no coaxing to make our way back to Kikokwe village for a) breakfast and b) some sleep!

Last year Sea Sense deployed satellite tags on green turtles nesting in both Mafia and Temeke Districts but this is the first time we have attached a satellite tag to a green turtle nesting in Pangani District. We’re hoping to gather previously unknown information from Olive on the inter-nesting and migratory habits of green turtles nesting in Pangani District. In the days since she was tagged, Olive has remained within 7km of her nesting beach with only one short safari of 10km in to deeper waters. This is classic ‘inter-nesting’ behaviour which suggests that she will nest again in the coming weeks. But once she’s finished nesting will she choose to migrate north to Kenya or maybe even Somalia as two of the turtles tagged in Mafia District did last year? Or will she follow the lead of the turtles tagged in Temeke District who chose to stay in Tanzanian waters? You don't have to wait to find can follow Olive at the link below and even subscribe for daily updates!  Go Olive!

Monday, 16.09.2013 10:01 10:01 Age: 5 Years

Expected Green Turtle Hatching Dates in January 2019

16th & 24th
South Beach
Mafia Island

Did you know?

Every whale shark has an individual pattern of spots, a bit like a human fingerprint!