TOOLS: Turtle Travels

Science  05 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5663, pp. 1445
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5663.1445d

There's no place like home—especially for female sea turtles. When ready to lay eggs, they can paddle more than 2500 kilometers to the beach where they hatched decades before. Follow the wanderings of these imperiled reptiles with the Marine Turtle Interactive Mapping System, a new site from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) designed to help pinpoint feeding and nesting areas that need protection.

So far, the site tallies more than 30 years of records for the Indian Ocean and western Pacific provided by turtle expert Colin Limpus of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service in Australia. Turtle trackers can create custom maps of egg-laying locales and migration routes for six species, or click on a site or route to get underlying data. The map shows the haunts of the hawksbill (Caretta caretta), whose populations haven't recovered from decades of slaughter for their ornately patterned shells. UNEP encourages scientists and conservationists to contribute their findings on other sea turtle havens.

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