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By Scott Neil
Published Nov 14, 2012 15 8:00 am
Swimming away: A view of intrepid turtle 'Tucker' and the GPS tag on its shell.
'Tucker' has reached the Bahamas after swimming away from Bermuda,
covering 1,000 miles and surviving an encounter with Hurricane Sandy.
The turtle was one of five caught in the ocean around Bermuda and fitted with GPS tracking tags before becoming involved in the Tour de Turtles research project which started in August. The Tour de Turtles ‘race’ ended on Monday.
Tucker travelled further than all the others. However, a second tagged turtle ‘Catherine’, also decided to swim away from the Island and was last logged 600 miles southwest of Bermuda.
When Hurricane Sandy barrelled north from the Caribbean before reaching New York two weeks ago, the 500-mile wide storm churned across the open ocean where ‘Tucker’ was swimming. But the sub-adult turtle, which is between three and four feet long, survived.
“We have tracked several sea turtles through hurricanes, and it really does not seem to pose a problem for them,” said Daniel Evans, of the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy which is overseeing the Tour de Turtle project.
“For turtles the size of ‘Tucker’ and ‘Catherine’, the storm may push them slightly off course, but the turtles adjust for it and are right back on track to wherever they are headed.”
The tagged turtles have helped researchers gather information about the turtles’ habits and where they spent their time and feed. The other three turtles in the project, ‘Archie’, ‘Chubby,’ and ‘Fripper’ have been content to swim around localised areas just off the Bermuda coast.
Turtles return to the beach where they hatched to breed, but it is unlikely that ‘Tucker’ and ‘Catherine’ are doing so at the moment. They are still sub-adult turtles and appear to be widening their horizons and visiting feeding and resident areas where they will be in the company of other semi-adult turtles. ‘Tucker’ visited Abaco Island a few days ago and is now in the waters around the Bahamas’ largest island Andros. Neither ‘Tucker’ or ‘Catherine’ is expected to return to Bermuda.
“The areas where ‘Tucker’ and ‘Catherine’ are heading are adult green turtle feeding/resident areas, as they are still too young to breed,” said Mr Evans.
“Bermuda represents an important juvenile green sea turtle developmental habitat where hatchlings grow into sub-adult turtles. The research indicates that green turtles arrive at Bermuda at a size of about 25 centimetres (ten inches) and leave by the time they have grown to approximately 75cm (30 inches).
“The adult feeding/resident areas are usually used by sea turtles that hatched from a variety of nesting beaches, so identifying the adult feeding/resident area won’t tell us the beach where they hatched.”
Juvenile green turtles that arrive in Bermuda come from a number of locations, including Florida, Mexico and Cuba.
Each of the turtles in the ‘Tour de Turtles’ project are sponsored by either Government, Renaissance Re or the Sea Turtle Conservancy. ‘Tucker’ and ‘Catherine’ are both sponsored by the Department of Conservation Services.