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4th Session Held of This Year's Tanegashima Loggerhead Sea Turtle Survey

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Since last year the MHI Group has provided support for the "Tanegashima Loggerhead Sea Turtle Survey" sponsored by the authorized NPO EarthWatch Japan. The fourth and final session of the 2016 survey agenda took place on August 26-28 with the participation of seven employee volunteers, joining volunteers from the general public. Under the guidance of Yoshimasa Matsuzawa, an expert in loggerhead sea turtles, and members of Turtle Crew, a local NPO, the volunteers undertook nighttime observations on the beach.

The objective of the survey is to study the situation of loggerhead sea turtles in Tanegashima over the long term, using implanted identification tags, in order to clarify data on migratory ecology and homing instincts. Until now there had been no way of tagging newborn sea turtles and identifying them individually after they had grown. For that reason, today it remains unclear whether individual sea turtles actually cross the Pacific, how long it takes them to grow, or with what probability they are likely to return to the beach where they were born.

The fourth survey session was originally scheduled to take place at Nagahama Beach, but because of the effects of a typhoon the location was changed to the Anno area of Nishinoomote City in the north of the island. The participants began by searching for nests where newly hatched babies were about to take leave and head out to sea. As soon as a baby turtle appeared, a PIT (passive integrated transpoder) tag was inserted into its ingunal region without impeding its movement, and it was quickly discharged.

On the first day, as soon as the participants began walking on the beach at Anno to check for nests, they found a baby turtle with its head peeking out. With everyone on the survey team observing, they were able to see the baby turtle off safely into the water. For the team to witness the hatching of a baby turtle - something very elusive even for the people of Tanegashima - so soon after beginning their survey, was truly a stroke of good luck. After dinner, the survey began in earnest, and the team found a number of nests seemingly on the verge of hatching. Altogether they attached PIT tags and took measurements of eight turtles.

On the second day, the survey was carried out in the same location, this time in intermittent heavy rain. The team found a nest where a whole group of babies seemed about to leave. But after waiting until 2 a.m., ultimately only two baby turtles appeared.

As the foregoing indicates, finding newly hatched baby sea turtles isn't simple and demands a great deal of perseverance. One of the employee volunteers who participated reported that although an encounter with a large number of newly hatched babies proved impossible, he was nevertheless deeply moved to have had a rare experience like this for the very first time.

In accordance with the CSR Action Guidelines, the MHI Group will continue to promote initiatives aimed at protecting the environment and ecosystems and making regional contributions.
For details on the three previous sessions of the 2016 survey, please refer to the following URLs:

Observing a nest during the night

A newly hatched baby heading out to sea

Measuring a baby sea turtle

Group photo on the beach