Suriname beaches support a major nesting colony of leatherback turtles. During the 1999–2005 nesting seasons, we collected data on nesting ecology and identified individual turtles that nested at Babunsanti (Galibi Nature Reserve), Samsambo, Kolukumbo, and Matapica. We observed 8462 leatherback females, 6933 of which we PIT-tagged. The remaining 1529 females carried PIT tags of a non-Surinamese origin. Because complete coverage of all nesting beaches was not possible over the study period, estimations of minimum annual nesting colony size were made, which ranged from 1545 to 5500 females in Suriname alone. Of the 7394 turtles observed during 1999–2004, 14.8% were seen renesting by 2005. Annual mean internesting period ranged between 9.4 ± 1.0 to 9.6 ± 1.0 days. Annual mean observed clutch frequency was between 1.6 ± 1.0 to 3.1 ± 1.4 and annual minimum estimated clutch frequency between 4.1 ± 1.6 to 4.9 ± 1.8 clutches. Annual mean standard curved carapace length ranged from 154.1 ± 6.7 to 155.6 ± 6.7 cm, and annual mean clutch size ranged from 80.8 ± 18.3 to 88.2 ± 19.5 yolked eggs. Annual average hatch success (including nests with zero hatching) ranged from 10.6% ± 16.4 to 25.8% ± 24.4 at Babunsanti, and from 52.7% ± 29.7 to 56.0% ± 30.8 at Matapica. Remigrants and non-Surinamese turtles were, on average, larger than new females, and remigrants had a higher clutch frequency. In 6 years, the annual proportion of newly tagged females decreased from 89.9% to 40.5% and that of remigrants increased from 0% to 45.6%. However, the annual proportion of turtles with a non-Surinamese PIT tag (10.1% to 17.6%) was relatively stable. Combined with the moderate frequency of intra- and interseasonal nesting exchange between regional beaches, this indicates that although the Suriname/French Guiana leatherbacks form a single rookery, individual females show strong nesting fidelity to one side of the Marowijne Estuary.
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Vol. 6 • No. 1