Green and hawksbill turtles in the Lesser Antilles demonstrate behavioural plasticity in inter-nesting behaviour and post-nesting migration
Satellite transmitters were deployed on three green turtles, Chelonia mydas, and two hawksbill turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, nesting in the Lesser Antilles islands, Caribbean, between 2005 and 2007 to obtain pre- liminary information about the inter-nesting, migratory and foraging habitats in the region. Despite the extremely small dataset, both year-round residents and migrants were iden- tified; specifically, (1) two green turtles used local shallow coastal sites within 50 km of the nesting beach during all of their inter-nesting periods and then settled at these sites on completion of their breeding seasons, (2) one hawksbill turtle travelled 200 km westward before reversing direction and settling within 50 km of the original nesting beach and (3) one green and one hawksbill turtle initially nested at the proximate site, before permanently relocating to an alter- native nesting site over 190 km distant. A lack of nesting beach fidelity was supported by flipper tag datasets for the region. Tagging datasets from 2002 to 2012 supported that some green and hawksbill individuals exhibit low fidelity to nesting beaches, whereas other females exhibited a high degree of fidelity (26 turtles tagged, 40.0 km maximum distance recorded from original nesting beach). Individual turtles nesting on St Eustatius and St Maarten appear to exhibit behavioural plasticity in their inter-nesting behav- iour and post-nesting migration routes in the eastern Carib- bean. The tracking and tagging data combined indicate that some of the green and hawksbill females that nest in the Lesser Antilles islands are year-round residents, whilst oth- ers may nest and forage at alternative sites. Thus, continued year-round protection of these islands and implementation of protection programmes in nearby islands could contrib- ute towards safeguarding the green and hawksbill popula- tions of the region.