Translocate adult or juvenile reptiles: Sea turtles

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two studies evaluated the effects of translocating sea turtles on their populations. One study was global and one was in Japan.



  • Abundance (1 study): One global review reported that zero of four sea turtle translocations were considered successful.
  • Reproductive success (1 study): One global review reported that zero of four sea turtle translocations found that breeding occurred.
  • Survival (1 study): One study in Japan found that at least two of five wild-caught hawksbill turtles survived at least six months following release.


  • Behaviour change (1 study): One study in Japan found that at least two of five wild-caught hawksbill turtles returned to their point of capture after release.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A review of worldwide translocation programmes for reptiles during 1962–1990 (Dodd & Seigel 1991) found that at least half of those involving sea turtles were unsuccessful. Two of four (50%) programmes were considered unsuccessful, and for a further two the result was unknown. In addition, breeding was not observed in three of four programmes, and for the other the result was unknown. The origin of individuals (wild populations or captive-bred) was not described for all programmes. Published and unpublished literature was searched.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A study in 2005–2006 off the coast of an island in southwestern Japan (Okuyama et al. 2010) found that translocated hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata that were held in captivity before release tended to return to their point of capture. Five wild-caught turtles (held in captivity for 4 months) were tracked for 2–8 days, and two were recaptured 182–199 days after release at their original point of capture (around 5–15 km from release site). An additional four head-started turtles were tracked for 4–9 days and a fifth turtle was tracked intermittently for 10 months. Five wild turtles were captured and held in captivity for four months in large rearing tanks (2 or 5 kl). Five head-started turtles were raised for 2.5 years after being hatched from eggs collected on the island. All turtles were fitted with radio transmitters and released in April 2005 following 1 h sea-acclimation in an enclosure net (4 × 4 × 5 m). Turtles were tracked using 12 fixed receivers deployed on the ocean floor (18 m deep).

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust