Revealing migratory behaviour of South African leatherback turtles

Nathan J. Robinson, The Leatherback Trust

Dataset credit

Nathan J. Robinson, The Leatherback Trust


Primary contact Nathan Robinson Fundacion Oceanografic
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University



Previous studies have shown that the world’s largest reptile – the leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea – conducts flexible foraging migrations that can cover thousands of kilometres between nesting
sites and distant foraging areas. The vast distances that may be travelled by migrating leatherback turtles have greatly complicated conservation efforts for this species worldwide. However, we demonstrate,
using a combination of satellite telemetry and stable isotope analysis, that approximately half of the nesting leatherbacks from an important rookery in South Africa do not migrate to distant foraging
areas, but rather, forage in the coastal waters of the nearby Mozambique Channel. Moreover, this coastal cohort appears to remain resident year-round in shallow waters (<50 m depth) in a relatively fixed
area. Stable isotope analyses further indicate that the Mozambique Channel also hosts large numbers of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. The rare presence of a resident coastal aggregation of leatherback
turtles not only presents a unique opportunity for conservation, but alongside the presence of loggerhead turtles and other endangered marine megafauna in the Mozambique Channel, highlights the
importance of this area as a marine biodiversity hotspot.


The data were collected from nesting leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that tracked via satellite transmitters from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa.

Supplemental information

All the individuals were adult female leatherback turtles that were tagged while on their nesting beaches.

As these data have already been processed in a State-Space Model there is only one location per day and time is not available.




This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
All attributes are included in the downloadable file (CSV or ESRI File Geodatabase) for "Complete Set of Dataset".

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
tag_idTag/Turtle ID
obs_datetimeDate of the location
lonLongitude in decimal degrees
latLatitude in decimal degrees
sp_obsSpecies name
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
obs_countNumber of animal. Always 1
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals0
Sea turtles1,842
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin2011-11-10
Date, End2013-06-05
Temporal prec.111000
Latitude-42.39 - -15.35
Longitude0.95 - 56.27
Coord. prec.5 decimal digits
Data typeTelemetry location
TracklinesYES (ID: 1810)
Traveled (km)72,484
Travel hours45,672
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (All)
Shared with OBIS*
GBIF (via DOI)*
* Aggregated summary
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