Riviera Maya, Q.R. – Sea turtle monitoring via satellite has begun in Riviera Maya. Two hawksbill turtles and one male dolphin were released into the sea with satellite tracking devices that will allow researchers to monitor their movements.
The turtles were from the Xcaret turtle hospital where injured turtles are taken in for rehabilitation. Common injuries include dehydration, animal attacks, propeller damage, fishing nets and the ingestion of plastic, which is mistaken for food.
Once rehabilitated, the turtles were outfitted with telemetry equipment on their shells and programmed to support the Critical Habitats of Sea Turtles program from the Laboratory of Remote Sensing and GIS of the Research Center and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute.
Dr. Ana Negrete, a specialist at the Xcaret Experimental Conservation Directorate, reported that Xcaret Park collaborated with Dr. María de los Ángeles Liceaga and Dr. Eduardo Cuevas Flores of National Polytechnic Institute, since both have a common goal of generating knowledge for turtle conservation.
She pointed out that sea turtle populations are vulnerable to climate change, bycatch, the degradation of their nesting beaches and, in particular, oil spills. To know the direct and indirect impacts of these threats on turtles requires knowing the location and extent of their critical habitats.
“Sea turtles are sentinel species because of their sensitivity to alterations in the habitats they occupy, and have a complex life cycle in which they use diverse marine and coastal habitats in wide geographic ranges that sometimes include several countries. Such movements are part of the connectivity processes between habitats in large ecosystems, as is the case in the Gulf of Mexico,” explained Ana Negrete.
Researchers are hoping to expand their monitoring project by tagging and tracking additional species from the coast of the Mexican states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz. In the future they hope to create a Marine Turtle Care Plan.