Hong Kong has one of the last remaining nesting populations of endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in southern China. Because nesting individuals are vital to sustain populations, this study characterizes and reports essential baseline information about nesting pattern, postnesting movement, and genetic composition of green turtles nesting in Hong Kong to provide a basis for effective scientific-based management of this migratory species. The number of nesters observed in Hong Kong was relatively low compared with other rookeries in southern China, but the nesting pattern in terms of clutch size and internesting interval was comparable with that of other nearby rookeries. These nesters are likely a remnant of a small population previously depleted as a result of historical harvesting of eggs in Hong Kong. Based on available DNA sequences and literature, we identified two mtDNA haplotypes, CmP18 (which is also common in the rookery in Taiwan) and a novel endemic haplotype (CmP116). We found significant differentiation based on haplotype frequencies between populations in Hong Kong and Lanyu, Taiwan, indicating that these nesting populations are demographically isolated. Loss of these populations would therefore result in loss of genetic diversity for this species in the region. Satellite tracking of the local nesters revealed postnesting movement to foraging habitats in Vietnam and Hainan Island. International cooperation and consistent dedicated research are of paramount importance to conservation and recovery of green turtle assemblages in the region.
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Vol. 68 • No. 2