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  Indian Ocean-South-East Asian Marine Turtle website 25 Jun 06
Green turtle travels 2,390km in 60 days
by K. Suthakar Kemaman

She was nicknamed Tumec 4, a female green turtle that was released from the Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre (Tumec) in Ma’Daerah here, on Aug 20, last year. Her journey was tracked by satellite and by the time the battery ran out 60 days later, she had traversed 2,390km to the Sulu Sea in the Philippines.

Two other female turtles tracked at the same time ventured as far as Vietnam and Indonesia but the only male turtle tracked settled for Tioman. This is believed to be the first time that a green turtle had been tracked navigating such a distance from a nesting site in Malaysia.

The four turtles were fitted with transmitters to allow them to be tracked by an American satellite. The data was relayed through a French ground station, which passed the information to Tumec via the Internet.

The Tumec 4 turtle was released on Aug 20 last year, the Vodafone 1 turtle also on the same day, Vodafone 2 on Aug 29 and Tumec 5 on Sept 9. Vodafone 1 was spotted in the waters off Vietnam after navigating 1,600km and Vodafone 2 was spotted off Java island, 1,290km away. The only male released, Tumec 5, was detected near Pulau Tioman, which was about 350km away.

Tumec head Kamaruddin Ibrahim said: “I believe this is the first time a green turtle nesting in Malaysia have been tracked navigating such a distance.”

Turtle scientist Prof Chan Eng Heng agreed, saying a green turtle released in Pulau Redang between 1993 and 1995 was detected in the south of Pahlawan Island in the Philippines. It had navigated 1,700km.

Kamaruddin believed that leatherbacks migrate further from their nesting ground to feeding grounds. In the 1970s, he said two leatherbacks tagged in Rantau Abang were found dead in Japan after being caught in fishing nets. He said the tags were returned to the Fisheries Department.

“This further proves that we can only do so much in conserving turtle nesting in Malaysia such as incubating the eggs and protecting the nesting sites. “Due to the migratory nature of turtles, we cannot protect them when they navigate long distances to their feeding grounds,” he said.

According to a report in the Internet, the ability of the sea turtles to migrate thousands of kilometres is one of the most remarkable acts in the animal kingdom. That adult females return faithfully to nest on the very beach where they were born makes the feat even more amazing, it said.

Kamaruddin said Tumec planned to track more turtles but was short of funds. Those willing to sponsor the transmitters (each costing RM7,000) can contact him at 09-845 8169 or email kdin55@ yahoo.com.

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