Turtle-Tracker Tool Aids Experts
February 15 2004
By Alex Kirby
News Online environment correspondent
An online mapping system which displays information
about turtles' nesting and migration habits
should help to protect them against further
The Marine Turtle IMapS is produced by the UN
Environment Programme, and will let researchers
share data worldwide.
The scheme is starting by focusing on the Indian
ocean and south-east Asia, but is to be extended
to other areas.
Threats to turtles include fishing nets and
hunting for their meat, eggs and shells, as
well as loss of habitat.
IMapS, the Iosea Marine Turtle Interactive
Mapping System, is the work of Unep's World
Conservation Monitoring Centre.
It has been developed for the Indian Ocean-South-East
Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum Of Understanding
Douglas Hykle, who co-ordinates the work of
the Iosea memorandum, said: "The ability
to display marine turtle nesting and migration
data in such detail over the internet will underpin
international conservation efforts.
"Some of the world's most important marine
turtle populations are in this region, and many
are seriously threatened.
"Decision-makers need to be made aware
of the importance of particular sites... and
gain an appreciation of just how widely these
Dr Klaus Toepfer, Unep's executive director,
said: "With IMapS, anyone with an interest
in turtles will be able to see global trends
and patterns as well as details of specific
"The information will be available for
decision making at all levels... a key to the
effective implementation of international conservation
IMapS covers six species: loggerheads, flatbacks,
green turtles, hawksbills, olive ridleys and
They face a variety of threats across the region.
Damage to coral reefs, sea grass beds and nesting
beaches is intensifying the other threats the
Some years the female turtles which return
to their native beaches to lay their eggs produce
fewer hatchlings than in others, and the project
hopes to see whether this is a local issue or
a global trend.
A 29-year-old loggerhead named Premiere, who
was tagged as a hatchling on an Australian beach
in 1975, returned there last November and laid
four clutches of eggs.
She is the first of the turtles tagged that
year to have returned as a breeding adult.
Before she left on her northward migration
she was fitted with a satellite-tracking radio
transmitter, which shows she is covering about
26km a day along the Queensland coast inside
the Great Barrier Reef.
Dr Colin Limpus, of the Queensland parks and
wildlife service, has been monitoring turtles
for three decades.
"With IMapS, the research community will
be able to begin to see the priorities for conservation
and improve our knowledge of the movements of
the turtles," Dr Limpus said.