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In the last few months, members of the project have been searching the beaches of Saona Island, a protected area off the south-eastern tip of mainland Dominican Republic, looking for female hawksbills coming out of the sea to nest. When a female has finished nesting, she is contained in a wooden corral while a satellite transmitter is glued to her shell. Once the female is back in the sea, the transmitters emit signals when she comes to the surface to breathe, giving her location.

Six female hawksbill turtles have been tagged for this project. Read more about the turtles, and the project team members, here and then find out where they've gone...

The south coast of the Dominican Republic, showing tagging locations and nearby features rel= © WWF/Marianne Fish. Basemap data - The Nature Conservancy.

Paulina, 11th August 2008, Faro Punta Cana

Paulina and members of the tagging team (Pelagio Paulino, Jesus Tomas, Yhanny Cruz, Chino from L-R). © WWF

Paulina was named in honour of Pelagio Paulino (aka "El Negro"; far left in the photo), an artisanal fisherman from Mano Juan, Saona, who has worked at the Saona turtle project since 2005. An important member of the team, he has conducted nesting surveys, in-water surveys, managed a hatchery to reduce egg poaching (with excellent hatching success), been granted his own hatchery to run and has been appointed as a ranger for the Parque Nacional del Este by the Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y recursos Naturales of the Dominican Government. An amazing community leader, he has managed to involve all his family and neighbors in sea turtle conservation, especially nest protection. Always full of energy, humor, and new ideas, he is a constant source of inspiration for the Dominican Republic turtle project.

Adamanay, 19th September 2008, Canto de la Playa

Paulino Pelagio and Ohiana Revuelta attach a transmitter to Adamanay © WWF

Around the time of European contact Saona island and part of the main island of Hispaniola were inhabited by the Taino people who called the smaller island Adamanay.  In 1494, an italian sailor re-named the island Saona after the Italian city of Savona (the v was later dropped). The indigenous name of Adamanay can still be found in some charts for the name of the main settlement on the island, Mano Juan. Saona Island (now part of del Este National Park) and, in particular, its southern coast (with ~40 km of beaches) currently holds the most important hawksbill nesting population remaining in the Dominican Republic and is the main focus of Grupo Jaraga's sea turtle conservation efforts.

Blanquita Turbi, 30th September 2008, Canto de la Playa

Blanquita was named in honour of the group’s most experienced sea turtle field assistant, Bienvenido Perez Turb (aka Blanco). Blanco lives in El Cajuil, by the edge of Oviedo Lagoon in Pedernales Province, where he is a senior park ranger at Jaragua National Park. Since the 1980s, Blanco, has been carrying out sea turtle nest monitoring and protection activities in the beaches located on the ocean side of Laguna de Oviedo, where hawksbill, green and particularly leatherback turtles nest. Due to high predation by humans, Blanco carefully collects and incubates sea turtle nests in his home and is one of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable persons about sea turtles in the country. He enjoys enormous respect, and his participation and dedication have been key to the group's success.

Yovalina, 27th October 2008, Faro Punta Cana Beach

Johanny Cruz (L) helps Pelagio Paulino to tag Adamanay. © WWF
Yovalina was named in honor of one of the group's more senior field assistants from Saona island, Johanny de la Cruz (Yoval). Johanny has worked with turtle conservation projects (in water and on the beach) for over four years. Reserved, but very responsible, always willing to help and forever an optimist, Yoval is also the group's skillful boat captain, carrying the turtle team through the most dangerous reef cuts and ferrying them all around the long nesting beaches of Saona and back to the mainland.

Yvonne, 1st November 2008, Caletón Sucio Beach

A female hawksbill returns to the sea after being fitted with a satellite tracking device. © WWF
This turtle was named in honour of Yvonne Arias, Grupo Jaragua's director. Yvonne is a Dominican biologist, specializing in the study of amphibians and reptiles, who has dedicated her life to biodiversity conservation and community development, especially in southwestern Dominican Republic. She  has also been very active in coordinating and strenghtening various initiatives for environmental advocacy in the Dominican Republic, notably in defense of protected areas, including del Este National Park where this hawksbill was tagged. Yvonne's charismatic personality, her down to earth friendliness, combined her with her techinical expertise and deep concern for local human communities, has been crucial for the creation and advancement of the environmental movement in the Dominican Republic.

Mirabal, 22nd December 2008, Playa del Muerto, San Pedro de Macoris

The last hawksbill to be tagged is Mirabal. Mirabal was named in honour of the Mirabal sisters, national heroines of the resistance movement against Rafael Trujillo, a dictator who ruled in the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961. The three sisters were murdered by the regime and their assasination date (Nov. 25th) is commemorated worldwide as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The name was also chosen to acknowledge the efforts of the current Dominican Minister of the Environment, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, who is not only the son of one of the Mirabal sisters but is also taking assertive action against the destruction of the Dominican Republic's natural resources, including hawksbill turtles. Trade in tortoiseshell, which comes from hawksbill shell, is widespread in the Dominican Republic and one of the main threats to the hawksbill population. Since last November, Mirabal has enforced existing laws and ordered the confiscation of all tortoiseshell items from souvenir shops, an enormous task given the scale of this trade around the country.