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Turtle tagging project is helping protect leatherback migratory routes

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Turtle tagging project is helping protect leatherback migratory routes

On the Pearl Islands, a Panamanian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, researchers and volunteers, led by marine conservation biologist Callie Veelenturf, are fitting turtles with satellite tags. Part of The Leatherback Project’s programme to collect data on the migratory routes taken by leatherback sea turtles (dermochelys coriacea) and other turtle species, the hope is that this will help protect marine species in the region.

Already, the project has identified a reef on Saboga Island as a significant nesting site for leatherback turtles. “Through understanding their habitat use in this area and how far they go from Saboga,” says Veelenturf, “we’re able to propose inspiring measures to protect them.” Veelenturf hopes a national wildlife refuge can be created around Saboga Island, offering legal protection to the turtles nationally and internationally. Currently, the Pearl Islands fall outside the protected Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR). This new data could secure the islands’ inclusion in the future.

The Leatherback Project also works with local young people by giving lessons on marine biodiversity, and through a collaboration with Reserva: The Youth Land Trust, an international, youth-led organisation, it is reaching a wide network of youth activists. these young activists aren’t only increasing awareness of the issues, but are helping raise much-needed funds for more tagging devices, each of which costs upwards of $3000.

Footage by: Callie Broaddus, Nikki Riddy and Bella Lack. Special thanks to The Leatherback Project and Reserva: The Youth Land Trust

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