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Turtles' Christmas journey tracked by scientists
Date:12/23/2009

The journeys of two marine turtles around the world's oceans will be available to view online this Christmas, thanks to a new research project launched by the University of Exeter.

Noelle and Darwinia are two adult female leatherback turtles that nest in Gabon, Western Central Africa. The research team has fitted each turtle with a small satellite tracking device, which enables the scientists to monitor their precise movements and observe where and how deep they dive. The tracking began on 7 December 2009 and so far the turtles have travelled 800 miles between them.

Their progress can now be viewed online: www.seaturtle.org/tracking and people can also get the latest news on the turtles by signing-up for daily email alerts. Noelle and Darwinia are members of the world's largest nesting population of leatherback turtles, but their environment is threatened. The waters around Gabon are increasingly subject to industrial fishing and oil exploitation, particularly from nations outside West Africa, including countries in Europe.

Leatherbacks are of profound conservation concern around the world after populations in the Indo-Pacific crashed by more than 90 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists leatherback turtles as critically endangered globally, but detailed population assessments in much of the Atlantic, especially Africa, are lacking.

A team from the University of Exeter, the Government of Gabon and a network of NGO's in country, including the Wildlife Conservation Society and Seaturtle.org, is now undertaking research to learn where these creatures go. The researchers hope their findings will enable government agencies to protect key areas from the impacts of fishing, oil exploitation and pollution.

The project has been funded by Defra's Darwin Initiative, which draws on the wealth of biodiversity expertise
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Contact: Sarah Hoyle
s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk
44-139-226-2062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert  

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