Leatherback Sea Turtle Tracked; Green Nest Relocated

provided to Santiva Chronicle

Juniper may appear to be a big turtle, but SCCF says she is an average-sized leatherback – the largest sea turtle species. Photo provided

A leatherback sea turtle, named Juniper by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation sea turtle team, can be tracked in real time as she travels Florida’s Gulf coast. Juniper is one of three leatherback turtles that have nested along the islands this season, a rarity since they typically prefer southeast Florida beaches.

SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan saw an opportunity to learn more about the species and reached out to biologists with Florida Leatherbacks Inc. The organization is a non-profit dedicated to researching leatherback turtles that nest on the east coast of Florida.

Sloan coordinated with FLI’s Chris Johnson and Kelly Martin, who traveled to the islands a couple of weeks ago and placed a satellite tracking device on Juniper. She appears to have circled the area from Sarasota to Naples, according to the Track Turtles map by FLI. Sloan said valuable research data about her behavior and movements in the Gulf of Mexico can now be gained.

Green sea turtle nest

In addition to the rare leatherback nests, the first green sea turtle nest of the year was laid Monday, May 25, on the bayside on the east end of Sanibel. Since it was on a narrow stretch of beach, the nest was threatened by daily tidal inundation and relocated to the gulf side. The SCCF turtle team was alerted to the unusual nest location, which is not included in daily monitoring, by a call to the hotline.

The loggerhead nest count this season has reached 234 on both islands, compared to 140 nests last year. SCCF has also reported a lower false crawl rate, particularly on Captiva where more nests than false crawls have been documented. Below is a breakdown of loggerhead nests by location.

Captiva: 33Captiva: 72
Sanibel East End: 23Sanibel East End: 45
Sanibel West End: 84Sanibel West End: 117

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