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The story of Cookie
The story of Hawaii’s green sea turtles is a story of hope and how Cookie received her name is a story of hope for our future generation and the protection of our oceans. Cookie was named by Kendal Peterson, an amazing young lady. Together with her sister, Madison, they named two animals - the whale Propeller and Cookie - with donations collected from their 9th birthday.
At one time, human hunting of Hawaii’s green turtles had reduced the turtles’ population to dangerously low levels. Thanks to protections provided by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the establishment of a National Marine Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii’s population of green sea turtles is believed to be growing at an estimated rate of 5.7%. We are so fortunate to be able to watch these turtles along Maui’s shorelines.
Cookie has been sighted repeatedly by Pacific Whale Foundation’s staff off the coast of Maui in a place that many people call “Turtle Town” on on May 9, 2011, May 12, 2011, June 23, 2011 and July 19, 2011. It’s an area offshore from Makena where hot lava from the volcano Haleakala poured into the sea thousands of years ago, creating immense clouds of steam as it cooled and hardened into black rock formations, including undersea rock arches. Today, you can see these black lava rock arches as you swim or dive undersea. Over time, coral reefs have grown up on and around this rock, creating a habitat for fish, invertebrates and other marine life, including green sea turtles. Their abundance gave this area its popular name.
Almost all of Hawaii’s green sea turtles are born in the “East Island Rookery,” a tiny island located in the French Frigate Shoals, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The green turtles hatch from leathery eggs laid in sandy nests on the beaches of this rookery.
Green sea turtles return to the place of their birth – their natal beach – to mate and lay their eggs. It’s a journey of about 500 miles each way. Amazingly, mature female green sea turtles make this journey about every two years.
At one time, human hunting of Hawaii’s green turtles at French Frigate Shoals and in the waters off Hawaii had reduced the turtles’ population to dangerously low levels. Thanks to protections provided by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the establishment of a National Marine Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii’s population of green sea turtles is believed to be growing at an estimated rate of 5.7%.
Our team is able to identify Hawaiian green turtles by photographing the left and right sides of their heads, and analyzing the photos. Sea turtle researchers have devised a clever system of assigning two codes to each of the “scutes” (or what some people might refer to as scales or plates) on either side of her head. The first code identifies the location of the scute on the head. The second code identifies the shape of the scute. The resulting series of numbers lets the researchers individually identify each sea turtle that they photograph.
We thank you for adopting Cookie and for supporting Pacific Whale Foundation’s research studies of sea turtles and other marine life, and our work to protect our planet’s oceans.