Friday, October 09, 2009

Amazing story of how the internationally famous "Suzie" came to Barbuda

My brother Ali, send me some links the other day from a very interesting turtle project. All of my family loves sea turtles and have worked for many years to help these endangered creatures. Anyway, this link told a story about two turtles that were rescued (purchased) from fishermen. It must still be legal there to kill them. The scientists named the adult green turtle "Suzie" and placed a satellite transmitter on her back so that they could see where she went off to.

Most people interested in turtles know that where they live and feed isn't usually the place that they mate and nest. In fact, Mykl just came back from a major turtle study in Bermuda where they have no nesting turtles at all.

Historical records showed that all of the nesting turtles were killed off many years ago. Turtles return to the place of their birth to lay eggs and if you kill them all off when they come up to nest and or take all their eggs.... nesting will stop. That's what happened in Bermuda. Interestingly though, they have thousands of young turtles feeding there which arrive on the Atlantic currents and stay until they near maturity. The study she was on was carefully catching them and taking DNA samples to figure out where they were born. This would also tell them where these turtles would go back to lay eggs. Back to Suzie. Suzie was feeding in the Turks and Caicos islands and the scientists hoped that they would learn where this turtle lived or nested without taking DNA. I'm not sure if they were sure if she had nested in Turks or if she had been living there. I have a feeling that she was living there. DNA only works if you have a common sample from another area to match it with. Many times that DNA has never been taken. Anyway, my brother all the family the link showing "suzie's" movement, and we were amazed to see her swim straight over to the Virgin Islands. My bro and I had made that trip ourselves back in June 1995, and even on a 40 foot boat it wasn't an easy one. Suzie didn't stop there. She then made the voyage up to St. Martin. From there the google tracking map showed her swimming over towards St. Kitts and last night she arrived off the pink sandy beach of Barbuda's Palmetto Point. There are no more islands in that direction, so it looks like she may start nesting very soon in Barbuda. She may lay on average 110 eggs three or four times every few weeks before returning back to the Turks and Caicos. Because of huge variety of things that kill turtles the chances that one of the hundreds of eggs will make it to maturity are not very high. In fact, some scientists say one in ten thousand eggs will reach maturity at 25 years old. That's not too good is it?

This photo below was taken on the same beach over in Barbuda several weeks ago and shows the tracks of a hawksbill turtle. They need coastal vegetation to nest comfortably. In Antigua that's called "bush" and for some reason is seen to be something that must be cut down.
Anyway, Antigua will get some good press out of this one for a change if she makes it through her nesting without being killed. Our fisheries department here on the island is run by people and a government who in my humble opinion don't care about the survival of these turtles. They drew up new laws in their Fisheries Act which would protect these amazing species, but years later it hasn't been passed. It is still legal to kill mature endangered sea turtles after august 31st. We all know that it's peak nesting season at that time. It would be so easy to pass the the act, but this government, like the last one cares little about the environment and nothing about the marine environment. To the ministers: IT’S TIME TO PASS THE FISHERIES ACT WHICH HAS BEEN SITTING FINISHED ON YOUR TABLE FOR YEARS!!!!!!

If you would like to see if Suzie makes it safely back to the Turks and Caicos after nesting please keep checking this website link.