Turtles set to do battle
Hawksbill turtles are preparing for one shell of a contest as they compete in the Great Gulf Turtle Race 2012, writes Kimberly Lobo...
The race, organised by EWS-WWF, is now in its second year and was launched as part of a three-year Marine Turtle Conservation Project. In it, 28 turtles will be tagged with satellite tracking technology to follow their progress during the four-week race.
Among the competitors will be our own 7DAYS turtle - and we are looking for your help to name her.
Lisa Perry, programme director at EWS-WWF said: “In a light-hearted bid to increase interest around these beautiful creatures and the plight they face as a critically endangered species (according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List), the number of kilometres the satellite-tagged turtles have swam will be tracked.
“As 28 Hawksbill turtles from this year’s tagging enter the Great Gulf Turtle Race, they will be competing to become the furthest travelled turtle and the most popular turtle.”
The Great Gulf Turtle Race is just one element of the EWS-WWF Marine Turtle Conservation Project, a three-year programme launched in April 2010 to pinpoint the migration patterns of the animals and locate feeding grounds in the Gulf used by the Hawksbill turtles.
It is hoped the findings of the project will lead to new conservation policies and plans to protect areas essential for turtles’ survival. All the turtles taking part in the race are female and weigh between 50kg and 100kg.
Perry added: “Satellite transmitters are fitted to the top of the turtle’s shell - in a painless process - and secured using a combination of fibreglass and resin.
“This transmitter sends a signal when the turtle surfaces to breathe, giving the
EWS-WWF conservation team the location of the turtle on a map.
“This type of technology makes it easy for scientists to get much needed data and at the same time allows the general public to see the whereabouts of the tagged turtles.”
This year’s race, which starts on Tuesday, promises to be more exciting than ever.
Perry said: “This year we have more turtles and more sponsors involved, making it more interesting and entertaining.”
The competitor who has travelled the furthest and the most popular turtle online by July 12 will be crowned winners. Follow the progress of the turtles online at www.gulfturtles.com.
>> How many years can a turtle live?
Current estimates are that turtles can live to between 80 and 100 years old.
>> How do turtles breathe?
They swim to the surface and just before they reach there they exhale, then as their mouths break the surface they take a deep breath. Often they will take two or more breaths before re-submerging.
>> When do turtles sleep?
They don’t sleep, in the human sense. They slow down and reduce activity to get into a ‘rest’ mode, with their eyes closed, but are still awake to know when oxygen levels drop and that it’s time to surface to breathe.