WCS Zoological health program staff participate in the annual sea turtle surveys led by WCS Belize at the Glover's Reef Marine Reserve. Objectives of these annual sea turtle surveys include: to determine the absolute abundance of the three turtle species at Glover’s Reef [hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerheads (Caretta caretta)], increase our knowledge of their movement and habitat use, assess their genetic stock, study their growth rates, and build the capacity of local stakeholders to collect accurate and standardized data.
WCS Health Program staff perform physical examinations on each sea turtle, looking for the presence of fibropapillomas or other abnormalities. Epibionts (encrusted barnacles, algae, etc.) are collected from the skin and shell of each turtle which, through carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, can be used to determine the region of the ocean where the turtles acquired them to aid in determination of this important life history characteristic. Blood samples are obtained for hematologic, biochemical, and contaminant testing and samples were preserved for the purpose of genetic, molecular, and other tests. In 2017, satellite transmitters were attached to the carapace of three sub-adult hawksbill turtles to study long range movement off the Atoll. These animals’ movements will be tracked over time to help better understand their life habits and to achieve the objectives of these investigations.
Glover's Reef sea turtle banner and thumbnail photo credit: Robert Moore, WCS
Read More: WCS Glover's Reef Website >