Sunday, December 3, 2006

Leatherback Turtles

Leatherback turtles are mysterious creatures. They lay their eggs on the same beach year after year and dissappear. The hatchlings are decimated by birds, crabs and other animals with only about ten percent surviving. No one knows where they go to do their growing up bit. One day as adults they return to the same beach after probably cruising the world. Scientists are now able to fit transmitters to the adults which are able to track them for one year. After that the harness rots off and thousands of dollars worth of transmitter fall to the bottom of the ocean. Battery life is over by now and there is no further use for the devise. I was lucky to document the fitting of this harness when these gentle giants come ashore for their annual egg laying cycle. Cape Vidal on South Africas East coast is a favoured spot. Once the egg laying begins the turtle is almost in a trance and scientists have about twenty minutes to fit the harness and satellite transmitter.