New DCNA Web Site Follows Miss Shellie, the Turtle Who Won’t Go Home
A wild sea turtle causes a stir with her very own internet diary – by refusing to leave home.
Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, January 20, 2006:
In September, 2005, the adventures of a 1.1meter-long Green turtle were being tracked by satellite after a state-of-the-art radio transmitter was attached to her shell as she laid her eggs on a beach on the island of St. Eustatius, known locally as Statia, in the Dutch Caribbean.
Schoolchildren – who christened her Miss Shellie in a local competition – joined researchers in logging on to the animal’s regular diary on http://www.DCNAnature.org, the newly launched Web site of the regional conservation group, Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance.
But Miss Shellie has baffled marine experts by refusing to live up to the image of her species as long-haul migrants who travel hundreds – or even thousands – of kilometers between nesting sites and feeding grounds.
By the time the battery in her transmitter failed on November 15, Miss Shellie had swum 961 km – without ever straying more than 5 kms from the spot where she was electronically tagged.
“She appeared to be simply swimming around and around the island,” said Nicole Esteban, manager of the marine park on Statia where Miss Shellie was tagged.
Miss Shellie’s refusal to leave home is likely to spark speculation about whether all turtles really are the great ocean wanderers that everyone believes them to be. Sea turtle expert Dr. Robert van Dam, who fitted her transmitter as part of a cutting edge turtle-tracking program being carried out in the Netherlands Antilles, is now keen to discover whether other turtles in the area are as home-loving.
“Miss Shellie may simply be an exceptional animal,” he says. “But I’d like to fix transmitters to other turtles in the same region next year to see whether they repeat her pattern. If they do, then we may be on to something. Certainly we now need to keep an open mind about the lifestyle and travel range of these animals.”
Kalli De Meyer, executive director of DCNA, the umbrella organization for the land and marine parks on the five islands of the Dutch Antilles and Aruba, explains, “A major concern is that endangered turtle species swim from protected areas such as ours to regions thousands of kilometers away where they are still hunted and killed.” Therefore, it could be good news for turtle conservation projects if Miss Shellie’s short traveling range proves to be typical of her species. Mrs. De Meyer continues, “Obviously it means we have a better chance of safeguarding existing populations if we discover that many of our turtles actually don’t travel that far from our waters.”
The story of Miss Shelli is only one of many interesting anecdotes that can be followed on the DCNA’s new Web site. The site is also filled with other detailed information, and aims to become the premier internet resource for both professionals and the general public on issues of biodiversity and conservation within the Dutch Caribbean.
The website already features:
• Information on protected areas, habitats, ecosystems and endemic, endangered and vulnerable species including an IUCN Red List for the Dutch Caribbean
• Details of ongoing projects on conservation, management, and capacity building
• Background information on the organization its board, vision, and objectives
According to Mrs. De Meyer, “We are doing some cutting edge work in scientific research and conservation and we want to use this Web site to share the data with both people and organizations working in our field as well as the wider general public.”
Coming soon to the Web site will be the results of a year-long baseline study of protected areas, as well as a fully searchable species database for the six islands comprised of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. “These tools are not only phenomenally useful for our own park personnel and academics, but they go a long way towards showing our funding sponsors and donors how effective our techniques are and how productively their money is being used to promote biodiversity conservation,” continues Mrs. De Meyer. “‘We aim to make the results of our work available in their entirety on our Web site as a part of our policy to provide a source of high quality information to anyone who has an interest.”
Kalli De Meyer came to work as the Executive Director of DCNA, based in Bonaire, in April, 2005. She brings with her a wealth of practical, hands-on park management experience, having set up the Bonaire National Marine Park in 1991, and continued to manage it until 2000. During this time, the BNMP turned into a model marine park, and has been used as a base-model for many other marine parks around the world. Mrs. De Meyer has worked for the Berkeley based non-profit, The Coral Reef Alliance, as their Conservation Director, as well as running her own Bonaire-based non-profit, Fundashon pa Bon Koral.
Mrs. De Meyer has been an avid diver since she first donned SCUBA gear in 1983. She has a wide range of SCUBA diving experience and is a proud member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame. Mrs. De Meyer received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Ecology from the City of London Polytechnic, UK, and her Masters degree in Oceanography from Southampton University, UK.
She lives on Bonaire with her husband and two young sons.
For more information, visit www.DCNAnature.org, email email@example.com, or contact Mrs. De Meyer at + (599) 717-5010.
Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance
Phone +(599) 717-5010
Kaya Grandi #20
Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance