Sea Turtle Tagging

Sea Turtle Tagging in Principe


Technology to track endangered species is so expensive that acquiring GPS-based spatial and behavioural data can be unattainable. Satellite tagging sea turtles can cost $3000 per turtle, but this data is vital to unravel the movements of nesting animals, improve their status and inform efforts to protect their fragile marine habitats.


Technical Solution

In 2015, ZSL initiated a project with the Principe Trust to understand how open source technologies and novel manufacturing could be used to develop a new low-cost tag for monitoring sea turtles. Ongoing collaboration with the Arribada Initiative, has led to the production of a GPS tag and enclosure that costs 90 per cent less to produce than commercial turtle tags. Open designs and manufacturing methods keep costs down and allow tags to be created on site.

Tags cost 90 per cent less, bringing down the unit cost from $3,000 to $300 and offering the potential to scale-up monitoring efforts to unravel the movements of nesting and pelagic animals and inform their conservation. In-house collaboration with engineers on-site in ZSL’s Conservation Technology Unit co-design space has allowed us to develop these solutions.


Video tags and GPS tag payloads, and the durability, waterproofing and attachment methods for enclosures have been tested on green sea turtles on Principe Island off the west coast of Africa. This successful proof of concept means we are now ready to scale up deployments in 2018.


What’s Next?

Incorporation of newly developed GPS payload into a new GPS tag enclosure design, and scale up of video and GPS tag deployments in additional locations.


Project Information

People Involved

  • Rachael Kemp, ZSL
  • Alasdair Davies, Arribada Initiative
  • Vanessa Schmitt, Principe Trust
  • Luka Mustafa, Institute Irnas

Partners and Supporters

  • Arribada Initiative
  • Shuttleworth Foundation
  • Principe Trust
  • Institute Irnas