Tuesday 1st November, 2005 Posted:
14:58 CIT (19:58 GMT)
and Wilma. Photo: Submitted
Two Cayman Islands sea turtles recently survived Hurricane
Wilma at sea when the devastating storm passed over their winter feeding grounds in Mexico and the Florida Keys.
Both endangered green turtles were tagged with state–of–the–art
satellite transmitters while nesting in Grand Cayman this summer. After the transmitters were attached, the turtles migrated
hundreds of kilometres across the open ocean to their distant feeding grounds where they live while they are not nesting,
states a press release.
Hurricane Wilma – the strongest Atlantic hurricane
on record – passed directly over the area inhabited by Pearl, and then headed for the Florida Keys where Rogest has
“We’ve received transmission from both
Pearl and Rogest since the storm,” said Joni Solomon, of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. “The most
recent message from Rogest’s transmitter was received a few hours after Wilma hit the Florida Keys.”
Hurricanes can kill sea turtles or cause them to wash
ashore – though both endangered Cayman reptiles survived the storm. Pearl and Rogest most likely rode out the hurricane
at depths of several hundred meters below the surface although they must have come up many times in the midst of the storm
In addition to dangers to adult turtles, hurricane
Wilma has had a devastating impact on turtle nesting. In the Cayman Islands, high seas from Hurricane Wilma flooded green
turtle nests on Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman.
“Nesting turtles in the Cayman Islands are critically
endangered,” said Janice Blumenthal, of the Department of Environment. “Loss of nests to hurricanes can hinder
population recovery, and we are concerned that global warming may bring about an increase in the frequency and severity of
“Sea turtles are well–adapted to survive
even intense natural disasters such as hurricanes. It is dangers caused by humans that threaten their survival. Human impacts
such as hunting turtles and eggs, accidental capture in shrimp nets and long–line fisheries, and loss of nesting and
feeding habitat threaten turtles with extinction,” said Ms. Blumenthal.
Satellite tracking turtles from nesting beaches to
feeding grounds is a first–step toward understanding their conservation needs. Darwin Project Leader Brendan Godley
said, “Locating the foraging sites of marine turtle populations is vital if we are to protect them. After all, only
a tiny proportion of their lifespan of many decades is spent on or near the nesting beach.”
The Cayman Islands turtle tracking project is a collaborative
effort of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, the UK Marine Turtle Research Group’s Turtles in the UK Overseas
Territories project, and US website saeturtle.org
Pearl’s satellite transmitter was sponsored by
the Richardson family (long–term visitors to the Cayman Islands), and Rogest’s transmitter was sponsored by the
DiveTech Kids Sea Camp Outreach Program.
Satellite tracks are made available to the public in
near real–time on the seaturtle.org website.
To check on Pearl and Rogest and see how they survived
the storm, log on to the satellite tracking website www.seaturtle.org/tracking/cayman