London, UK: Leatherback turtles swim for thousands of miles across the South Atlantic to get to their feeding grounds, a trip that takes some of them 150 days to complete, researchers claim.
Researchers attached electronic satellite tracking equipment to the backs of 25 female turtles, as they finished nesting on beaches and were returning to the sea.
The five-year study followed the movement of female turtles from the world’s largest breeding colony in Gabon, central Africa, as they swam to feeding grounds across the South Atlantic. Once the turtles reach a food-rich habitat, they will stay there for up to five years to build up reserves to reproduce and return to Gabon once they are ready to mate again.
The findings are important for conservationists looking to protect the turtles from threats such as fishing nets and hooks, which have been blamed for the dramatically depleted population of leatherbacks in the Pacific Ocean, researchers said.
The study identified three migratory routes, taking the turtles from Central Africa to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and down the coast off southern Africa. But why individual turtles choose one route over another remains one of the biggest questions in sea turtle biology, said Matthew Witt, a marine biologist who took part in the study.
Witt said that the study helped identify 11 nations in the South Atlantic whose territorial waters the turtles pass through, and that those countries could take the lead on marine conservation efforts.
Source: Associated Press