Monday, April 24, 2017

Introducing the interns........

Arrival of the Rookies...........

Hello everyone, the first rookie is here!My name is Emiel, I am a Belgian master student of the EMBC+ program (International Master in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation) and I am doing my two-month internship here in the Seychelles with MCSS.
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane, even before being able to admire the beauty of the island, was the crushing heat. As a real Belgian I am used to the cold and wet climate of Northern Europe and I thought the warm tropical climate of the Seychelles would be a welcome change… It really was after a few days, but I spend my first day on the island looking for shade and water.  Even when I went for a swim I found the water to be too warm to be refreshing and when I noticed I had no air conditioner yet in my room I was sure I was going to die that night.
Luckily, I did wake up the next day because it was a great day, just as all the days that followed after that! I was greeted warmly (so much warmth everywhere!) by all the staff, they are amazing people, and by the fresh AC in the office (heaven on earth!). After settling in I was immediately invited to dig up a nest that hatched the day before. It was the last nest on the beach, lucky me! We dug up the nest and found still a few baby turtles stuck while crawling out of the nest. After counting the eggs, we released them in the sea.The next day, my rookie buddy Tarek Bakkar arrived at the center. We spend the day monitoring beaches to look for turtle tracks and potential nests. These are only for the Green Turtle though as they nest year-round and the nesting season of the Hawksbill Turtle is over. Because of this there is not a lot of work for the turtle monitoring program so we help wherever we can with the other projects. Thursday, we cleared as much of the invasive Water Hyacinth as we could get out of an important Terrapin pond and set out some traps in some wetlands for Terrapin monitoring. Friday, we went to an extremely interesting symposium about Coral Reef resilience and rehabilitation with free food and drinks (that is always the best part). Overall, we had a very cool and  very instructive week and we are excited what the next 2 months will bring!

Emiel & Tarek deciding between the wetland & the sea!
Hey guys, my name is Tarek Bakkar and I am a Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Student (EMBC) from Germany doing an internship at MCSS for the next two month. I am participating in the turtle monitoring team. On my first day, we patrolled several beaches in the south of Mahé. Most beaches were very quiet in terms of anthropogenic disturbances as well as turtle tracks. Nevertheless, we found one Green Turtle track on the Grand Police Beach. Next to the vegetation we could find traces of sand disturbance but the female turtle did not seem to be happy with the location and went back to the ocean without laying any eggs.

My adventure just started and I am looking forward to the next month making new experience, see hopefully a lot of turtles and other wild life. I will keep you updated!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Turtle Nesting Season Update

Hi all..... it's been a while since our last blog.... Volunteers are out of sight....Turtles are out of sight & all is quite!

For this nesting season we have observed and recorded 394 turtle emergence and 176 nests....still a good number but definitely lower compared to the last nesting season.

We encountered our last turtle on the 13th of March... which is usually a bit late to have encounters but still always a delight to see the beautiful females nesting..... actually this particular female was encountered for the first time on January 13th on the same beach.
Shooting some last shots of the turtle
Heading back safely to sea

Fresh turtle track
With regards to poaching incidents...there is a significant decrease in the number of poached turtles recorded....and sadly number 3 was recorded over 3 weeks ago. While patrolling Anse my excitement I noticed the fresh turtle track on the beach and followed it up with caution.... I saw egg chamber 1 abandoned..... egg chamber 2 almost done...but.... the turtle seemed to have vanished into thin air!..... 

We searched everywhere in the bushes and no sign of a down track! The only apparent track were footprints and car Tyre marks close to where the turtle was..... after all the denials in my head and searching crazy for the turtle...I finally came to the obvious conclusion that the turtle had been poached!..... a beautiful up-track on the beach was all I had left from the beautiful Hawksbill turtle who had fallen victim to men's cruelty...

Abandoned egg chamber due to human interference
Anyway...April is here and soon we are expecting new students coming to join us for their internship with MCSS..... so stay tuned for some more updates from the rookies!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An amazing birds monitoring

Tuesday and Thursday are birds monitoring days.

There are a number of transects and set points through the Intendance wetland which need to be walked to count the species and number of birds.

Today, we have been very lucky to see three little moorhen chicks, not older than one month.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is a common wetland bird. They are native in Seychelles. You can find a lot of different kinds of

Moorhen in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Most of the times, each bird stays alone but during the nesting season the birds stay in couples to take care of their chicks. The female can lay 2 or 3 times per season, around 5 to 8 eggs. Often, they build their nest on the emerged vegetation or on the ground. When the chicks hatch, the parents both take care of their babies for one month. We could observe them walking on water lily leaves, feeding their babies.

Come to visit our Conservation center at the Banyan Tree and learn more about our wonderful birds!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Inka's adventure with MCSS comes to an end....

One month, two turtle encounters, and hundreds of hatchlings later, my volunteering time with MCSS has sadly come to an end. But what an amazing experience this has been! For my first turtle encounter I arrived just in time to see her lay the last of her 212 eggs. I’ve always had a lot of respect for animals and what they are capable of, but when you witness the effort these turtles have to go through to make their way up the beach, dig a nest, lay around 100-200 eggs, cover the nest and camouflage the area before returning to the ocean (and repeat this 2-3 times during one nesting season), your respect for them just grows immensely.

The same goes for the little ones, digging their way through the sand, walking along the beach surrounded by crabs ready to attack, and entering the wide ocean where more threats await. It is fascinating to watch them intuitively move towards the sea, how they speed up the closer they get, and how they conquer every footprint in the sand or rock.
During one of our hatchling rescues however, we found them stuck in a water hole and underneath one of the hotel villas. When turtles hatch during the night, they move towards the reflection of the moonlight on the ocean. However, when bright hotel lights are on, they can become disoriented and end up lost. One way to prevent this is to use red bulbs instead as the turtles cannot see this wavelength. This has been implemented by various hotels and hopefully the Banyan Tree Resort will follow suit. Once the hatchlings had been rescued, we placed them on the sand a couple of meters away from the ocean because this is important both for their personal development and so they can find their way back to the beach years later

On the same day as this rescue operation we noticed a Hawksbill turtle nesting on the beach. Since her nest was very close to the high tide line, we waited for her to finish and then relocated the egg clutch to prevent the nest from being flooded. This is a delicate process as the eggs should not be rotated and the nest conditions (including the order in which the eggs were laid) should be kept as similar as possible. A very interesting experience, both for us and the tourists on the beach.
There were also two special events during my time here. One was the National Protected Areas Day where conservation societies in the Seychelles come together to present their work to each other and the public. It was very interesting to learn about the different conservation efforts made across the islands and to meet such a large number of people involved, including Jeanne Mortimer. She has spent over 40 years studying turtles across the world, moved to the Seychelles in 1981 where she has contributed to local turtle protection as well as international research, and was awarded a “Lifelong Achievement Award” from the International Sea Turtle Society in 2016. It is mainly thanks to her efforts that the government and locals have changed their mindset, and the killing of turtles (common for their meat) has become illegal, resulting in high fines and prison charges. It was inspiring to meet someone with so much passion and dedication to turtle/nature conservation. The second event was World Wetland Day, for which we organized a tour around the beautiful Intendance wetland for guests staying at the Banyan Tree Resort. It is always nice to teach others about the work performed by MCSS and perhaps to inspire them to help preserve nature and care for animals.

My stay on Mahe Island has been amazing and I will definitely miss the turtles, people, stunning white sandy beaches and turquoise water. But now it is time to embark on a new adventure: volunteering with rhino conservation in Uganda!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Salome's experience so far...

Hi, my name is Salomé. I come from France. I'm 28 years old.
I'm a student in last year of biology bachelor. I'm doing an internship with MCSS for about 5 months.
I’m working on marine turtle project.  It's my first experience with the turtles and in Seychelles as well.
I always wanted work for the protection of wildlife, I took my time, and now I will do what I always wanted.

Restraining turtle for data collection
I will start with my first encounter with a hawksbill turtle. It was my first day, lucky girl! I was completely lost. You have to know that my English is very bad. So, I didn't understand anything that I heard. Suddenly, I just understood "turtle here”. Vanessa had received a call from the field assistants on the beach. We have a turtle there! Quickly, we took our materials and went to the beach. ….my internship had officially started!

It was an amazing day; she was so beautiful, incredible to see this turtle.  We went on patrols three days per week on the six main beaches in the south of Mahé. It was a good way to discover new beaches and some places where there is no one except you, the sea and the turtle! We saw lots of tracks, few turtles and we identified the new nests.
During the peaks of the season, I encountered six hawksbill turtles; I saw three of them laying the eggs.
Hawksbill turtle laying
When the turtle starts to lay you can make the measures and check if she's injured or if she's ok, as she is in a trance and once she has started laying the eggs she will not stop, so it is the perfect time to approach her for data collection. She lay between 100 and 200 eggs, sometimes one by one, sometimes three by three. When finished she covers the nest with the sand carefully. Her flippers are like a hand. Then camouflage her nest splashing sand everywhere….have to be careful during this step ….back off or you will easily be sand splashed :)
Up or down...?
The Rock climber!
As you know, they are critically endangered species, that's why we have to be careful with ecological impact. They need us.

When the laying season goes off peak, we are then busy checking the hatching of the nests. If you are lucky, you can see little hatchlings…

Rescuing disorientated hatclings

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An amazing volunteering couple!

A Warm Welcome from the Seychelles´ Turtles
We hit the jackpot! A total of six hawksbill turtles welcomed us in our first two volunteering weeks with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles. Emerging from the beach, digging a whole, laying the eggs and camouflaging –the turtles offered us the whole programme. But let´s start at the beginning…

Michi & Nina
We are Michi and Nina from Germany. MCSS is our first project on our 1-year volunteering trip to Seychelles, Madagascar, South Africa, Malawi and Canada.
Instead of the usual “laying-on-the-beach-and-move-as-less-as-possible-holidays”, this year we decided to do something meaningful by supporting the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS). And how could we spend our time better than protecting critically endangered turtles? Apart from this, patrolling the beautiful beaches of the Seychelles and monitoring its awesome fauna could still be regarded as a luxury holiday trip – just much more exciting.
Nevertheless, the first two weeks of our volunteering were anything but relaxed. The turtle’s nesting season just reached its peak which means one thing above all: a lot of action!While patrolling the beaches of south Mahe we encountered turtles nearly every day. Although each spotting was special in its own way, we will remember in particular one: our first hawksbill turtle encounter.

Turtle encounter on Anse Cachee
 What a beautiful surprise! This female hawksbill turtle is for sure around 30 years old, since this is normally the age when they are reproducing.

It was only our first day at MCSS, our first patrol and even our first five minutes at a Seychelles´ beach.We instantly spotted fresh and clearly visible turtle tracks in the sand upwards into the vegetation. Seeing just an up-track but no down-track usually means the turtle was still somewhere on the beach.
Indeed! We found her in the dense shrubbery still laying her eggs. Instantly, we could see how exhausted she already was after emerging from the beach, looking for the right place for her eggs and digging the nest. Yet, she still had one final but important step to undergo: covering and camouflaging the nest. Thereby, she hid the nest with sand and natural debris to guarantee an undisturbed and save environment for her eggs. The turtles take this phase extremely serious so that they can leave their eggs safely before going back to sea.

Nina & Annabelle counting the eggs as the turtle is laying
 Nina and Annabelle counting the eggs laid. All the data taken by MCSS contributes to an improved understanding of the species.
Nowhere else in the world than on the Seychelles Hawksbill turtles nest during the day and can be observed – while of course keeping a respectful distance–as impressive as here. Furthermore, they are categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN´s Red List of Threatened Species.  Our visit and work with MCSS will definitely not be our last one, but we have gained so much through this volunteering programme.

Maritime students' update at the end of their work attachment

The last blogs from the trainees......

Keith’s blog
Keith & volunteers with their encounter
Hello my name is Keith Folette, I’m studying at SMA (Seychelles Marine Academy).On my first day I encountered my first sea turtle (Hawksbill). This work attachment has really helped me develop my skills in the conservation sector.
Collecting egg clutch survival data
 At MCSS we work mainly with sea turtles and fresh water turtles, I learned a lot about them, and about their nesting seasons and their environment. And here at MCSS we are a rehabilitation centre so we help the injured turtles, we have a few Jacuzzi which we recycled and use as a habitat for the turtles, we organize the Jacuzzi into a temporary habitat for the mud turtles and every week we clean the water filters with the Jacuzzis to make sure that they stay in good running condition. So I really like this attachment, I really feel like I learned a lot. And the staff are really fun and friendly. In the near future I might consider working here….if the opportunity arises!

This is my last week at banyan tree with MCSS…. it has been such an adventurous journey for me. During the weeks at MCSS I’ve been really busy with turtle tracks, nests and turtle encounters especially on Mondays on the Grand Police beach. Last week I dug a nest on Anse Louis that had already hatched to see how many made it to the open sea, well sadly we found 10 little hatchlings dead and some eggs were rotten and some were not fully developed but 135 survived and that is quite good. At the center I also learned how to clean the filters  for the tanks of the terrapins and I also did some terrapin trapping around banyan tree wet lands, if we catch them we bring them back to the center and we measure, weigh, and tag them to know their movement. Around the center we also get some tourist that comes to visit so I give them a little tour around because we also have an exhibition about sea turtles, terrapins an animal’s around the wetland. I had a great experience here at MCSS; I really learned a lot…even more than I expected, the staff here is really friendly and corporative. My work attachment has been very fruitful.