Fund-raising success: Willie to get satellite tracker
UN PHOTO/AMI TURTLE WATCH
Mote Marine Laboratory staff released Sundae last week.
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA ISLAND In a few weeks, Chilly Willy will become
the first rehabilitated sea turtle to be outfitted with a satellite
tracker on the Gulf Coast.
Willy was found near death on the bayside of Anna Maria Island
on Valentines Day of this year during a cold snap.
AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox got the juvenile green turtle
into her truck and brought it to the sea turtle hospital at
Mote Marine Laboratory.
"The turtle was really lethargic," Fox said. "It
was covered in algae, which isnt a good sign, because
it means the turtle hasnt been swimming well for quite
Mote Veterinarian Dr. Charlie Manire examined Willy and determined
the turtle was suffering from hypothermia and anemia.
At first, Willy wasnt interested in food. The staff had
to resort to force-feeding.
He or she (the turtle is too young to determine its gender)
was treated for the anemia and the cold shock.
Slowly, Willy returned to health. In recent weeks, he has been
gaining weight so fast that the Mote staff had to cut back on
Fox and Manire talked about the possibility of attaching a satellite
tag to Willy to check his location after he is released into
the Gulf. As far as anyone can determine, no other rehabilitated
sea turtle has ever been satellite tagged and released on this
coast, according to Manire.
"This is a first," he said. "It will be interesting.
Not much is known about the range of juvenile green turtles."
The Sun got on board to help raise the $3,000 necessary to purchase
the satellite tag and the satellite time needed to check Willys
Kids from Project Sea Turtle camp helped out and raised funds
as well. They also paid a visit to Willy at Mote.
Sea turtles are air breathers, so every time Willy surfaces
for a breath, the tag will send a signal to the satellite. The
location of the turtle at that moment will show up as a dot
on a map. That happens each time the turtle comes up for air.
Then you can just connect the dots to see where Willy has been
and where hes headed.
Not much is known about where juvenile green turtles go to feed
and grow up, so this will be a good opportunity to gain some
knowledge, according to Manire.
When Willy is tagged and released, hopefully in the middle of
this month, his travels will be charted and can be checked at
the seaturtle.org web site.
Adult females have been tagged for several years. Their range
is much wider and broader than had been believed. Many of the
loggerheads that nest on Anna Maria Island beaches swim to the
coast off Spain for to feed. But they apparently go as adults.
Little is known of the habits of sub-adults, Manire said.
Fox said shes been in touch with Mote, and theres
a good possibility Willy will be released from the Island.
"I couldnt be happier about Willy and the part Anna
Maria Island Turtle Watch will play in his release and satellite
tagging," Fox said. "The Sun, the Island and the volunteers
really came through on this one."