After a smooth delivery, Sheela began her journey from the Little Andaman islands on the rim of the Indian Ocean in January. On Saturday , she was spotted near the Indonesian coast, having clocked more than 2,000km in 145 days. But this isn't about just another swimmer – Sheela is a leatherback turtle less than 2m long and has only flippers to propel her across the choppy seas.
The discovery of Sheela's trip has given hope to marine scientists in South Asia, who are conducting the first-ever experiment into the behavioural patterns of the leatherback, one of five turtles species that nest in India. A team from Bangalore's Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), along with the space technology cell of Indian Institute of Sciences and Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team, have tagged leatherbacks since November 2010 to study their post-nesting migration.
The leatherback is the biggest, most endangered and the deepest swimmer among seven turtle species known worldwide. The team attached transmitters to three of 29 leatherbacks that came ashore in the Andamans this year. All three moved south into the Indian Ocean. But only one, numbered 103333 and fondly called Sheela by field assistants, has survived so far. The transmitter on the turtle signals its location every time the turtle comes up to breathe.