Now, scientists across the world can track its movement and behaviour

The satellite telemetry tagging of a juvenile green turtle was carried out here on Sunday morning. The turtle, belonging to a rare species, was found entangled in a net in a fishing village in Chennai four months ago.

Now, she goes back to the seas with technology accompanying her.

The procedure conducted by volunteers of the Sea Turtle Protection Force and TREE Foundation lasted close to five hours. The process started around 10 a.m. when the ‘Greenie' was deposited in a cardboard box. Held in place by a set of volunteers, a few kept a wet cloth over her head to keep her calm. The major process involved cleaning the carapace (the hard upper shell) using acetone, cementing a GPS transmitter onto the turtle's back and colouring the module. It was a long time before the special adhesive dried, after which the turtle was released at the rock formations near Marakkanam around 4 p.m.

Each time the ‘Greenie' surfaces for air, the satellite transmitter would send a signal which would help determine its location in the ocean. The internationally recognisable paint applied on the turtle would enable scientists across the world to monitor its movement and behaviour. Most turtle deaths occur due to entanglement in gill nets. Since the trawl boats drag them for a long time, they suffocate and die, and many a time face major injuries, said Supraja Dharini, Chairperson of TREE Foundation. “As many as 100 turtles are found dead every year along Chennai's coastline alone,” she says.

The outcome of the study will be shared with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Department of Fisheries.

Only one out of every 1,000 turtle eggs survives to become an adult and an adult nests till she is 60, says Dr. Dharini. No conservation mechanism will succeed unless the death rate of adult turtles is checked, according to her. The ‘Greenie' can be tracked at the website http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=477

K. Venkataraman, a scientist at the Marine Biology Regional centre, Zoological Survey of India, said that the feeding and breeding patterns of turtles were dependent on ocean currents.

“If the current is favourable, the telemetry can bring useful results,” he said.