Friday, November 11, 2016

New SMA students... introducing Isabella....

My first encounter!
My name is Isabella Oreddy and I’m a 1st year Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) student doing my work attachment with Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), based at the Banyan Tree Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation Centre. On day one, Monday, I did my first turtle patrol on Anse Intendance, but sadly there were no tracks or any turtle related activities. However, I did see some turtle nests that were already there before, and that was quite amazing for me because it was definitely my first observation of turtle nests. I did record some anthropogenic activity; this is the amount of human activity that occurs along the beach and in the water near shore, which could hinder a turtle’s emergence. My most exciting day was on Friday because I encountered my first Hawksbill turtle, though it did not lay after attempting to dig up an egg chamber in an area with hard ground.  I had the chance to measure and take pictures for photo identification as she was leaving the beach; I also saw lots of turtle tracks on different beaches that MCSS monitors.  I’m really having a great time and learning a lot, it is more than expected and I still have a whole month to keep learning!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Volunteering on the spot!

Friday's patrol got a bit more exciting when we met some tourists ...a mother and daughter visiting Seychelles from France.
Seems like Anse Bazarca had become their favorite beach after they had the opportunity to see a turtle emerge from the sea a few metres from them!.... I could sense their excitement and love for sea turtles as they told me the whole story and showed images they had captured. Ever since that encounter they have been spot checking the same beach in the hope of having more encounters....
After meeting the Monitoring team they both decided to tag along with us to patrol some other beaches....but unfortunately no more encounters but still great to spot tracks and new nests.

It was a great couple of hours together and the 'unexpected volunteers' enjoyed it .... thinking about it now.... we never exchanged names!!..... talking about sea turtles was all we did!....nonetheless... many thanks for your information and for tagging along ladies!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Good luck for the future girls

Celeste & Lynn
Celeste and Lynn have almost reached the end of their work attachment with us. They have well been involved in almost all of our day to day activities and tasks. MCSS strongly believes that education is the key to conservation, so it is always great to have the opportunity to pass on knowledge, skills and experiences….. we thank the Seychelles Maritime Academy for the opportunity…. Here is a last few lines from the girls…..

Cleaning the tanks

 During this last week we were taught how to do beach profiling  to monitor sand movement on the nesting beaches, basically checking the nesting platform for turtles. The nesting season is starting to pick up now…. it’s unfortunate we didn’t see that much turtles… but at least we had the opportunity to see two, sadly we didn’t get a chance to see hatchlings.
Celeste with her 2nd encounter
Lynn on a mapping site high up!

Our time here was quite interesting we learned a few things we didn’t know already , the MCSS staff were very welcoming and friendly which made our time here even better! Thumbs up for team!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nicola & Alan share their experience with MCSS

Hello, we are Nicola and Alan from the UK. We have spent the last week of our holiday in the Seychelles volunteering with the MCSS on the Marine Turtle monitoring project, patrolling nesting beaches.
A fresh track!
We have been walking along nesting beaches at the high tide line, first thing in the morning, looking for distinctive turtle tracks. These can alert us to the fact that a female turtle has hauled herself out of the sea to crawl up the beach looking for somewhere suitable to lay her eggs. All turtles must return to land to lay their eggs, usually on the exact beach where they were born.

Looking for tracks
In the Seychelles, we are mostly looking for Hawksbill Turtles, the smallest of the 8 species of marine turtle found worldwide. Unfortunately, the Hawksbill has suffered from human persecution, not only for meat and eggs, loss of nesting beaches due to development and pollution, fishing practices, but as their shells are widely regarded as the most beautiful and are collected for decoration.

Hawksbills are unique in the Seychelles for nesting in the day; other turtles only nest at night, but as long as it is high tide (reducing distance to crawl) they will emerge to nest. There are occasional Green Turtle nests (of which we only saw one set of tracks during our week with MCSS).

If tracks are found we follow them and look for nesting signs…digging, false nest, and successful nest. Hopefully, we will find an adult turtle. On one such survey we were lucky enough to do this! A local resort alerted us to a huge Hawksbill Turtle on the beach outside the resort and we found her just as she was starting to dig a nest. We spent the next hour and a half watching her dig an egg chamber, lay eggs, camouflage the nest, and then crawl back down the beach to return to her marine world. It was a fantastic experience, one which we will never forget!
Can you spot the turtle?

This nest was laid in close proximity to a development and was fairly close to the high tide line (naturally the Turtle would have crawled higher up the beach but was prevented due to development). As a result, we had to collect the eggs, and place them further up the beach in a nest which we had dug. We counted approx. 210 eggs, which is a huge amount for a Hawksbill. The new nest was dug within the resort beach and fenced off. Data was collected, including turtle size, nest location, and any hazards on the beach. In addition to this photos are taken of the heads of the turtles which is entered into a facial recognition program so that individuals can be monitored (e.g. which/when beaches are being used) and avoids stressful methods such as tagging. Nests are monitored until the hatchlings are ready to head to the sea, usually in around 2 months time emerging at night.
....and she's off!.....back to sea!

We have really enjoyed our week volunteering with MCSS and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the incredible marine wildlife of the Seychelles. Vanessa, Marine Turtle Monitoring Officer, was very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and welcoming and it was a really valuable experience, one which we would not have been privileged to if we did not get involved. We are very sad to leave the Seychelles and hope to come back again one day, maybe we will see some of the hatchlings we witnessed being laid returning to a nesting beach!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Annabelle's update

Really like the Trimble:)
About a month ago, I (Annabelle du Parc) joined MCSS and the Conservation Team as a volunteer to help Vanessa monitor the nesting beaches for turtles in the south of Mahé. Since then, we have found tracks of turtles on the beaches, new nests, damaged nests (by dogs), we have relocated a nest which was too close to the  high tide line on the beach.

taking emergence GPS
 Then on September 30th , while Vanessa was attending a very interesting workshop on Protected areas, organized by IOC, Aleks and I had the chance to encounter our first hawksbill turtle. Awesome!!!
Turtle encounter on GPO

Today, while MCSS was welcoming 2 students form Maritime School, we encounter as well a Hawksbill turtle who tried to find a nice place to lay her eggs, but unfortunately she left without nesting: the place was not comfortable enough! 

Turtle Encounter on COR
However, we restrained her while she was on her way back to the sea and checked if she had a tag, if she was not injured and we took identification pictures as well as measurements. What a great experience!! As The nesting season for hawksbill turtles has just started, this should happen more often and we should be very busy for the following months!!!

New maritime students (Celeste & Lynn)
Besides nesting turtles beaches monitoring, we also do beach profiling, in order to study the erosion of nesting beaches and their impact on turtles nesting behavior. With climate change and sea water levels increase threatening, this exercice done by MCSS once a month is of a great importance. Sea level rise could lead to erosion of coastal ecosystems and eliminate nesting beaches as well as wetlands. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

All about Sea Turtles!!

Exciting couple weeks here in south!

The nesting season for Hawksbill turtles has finally started; the beautiful creatures of the sea are coming up to lay their adorable little ping pong sized eggs on our beautiful beaches of Seychelles. We have been finding some sightings of turtles coming up some of the beaches and successfully laying their eggs. The first sighting was a green turtle that came up at Grand Police beach . 

Green turtle emergence track
I was so happy to see a green turtle track due to the fact that I was working on Aldabra before and that’s the most common turtle that comes up to nest on Aldabra. 

Vanessa joked around about how messy the green turtles are when they lay their eggs compared to the Hawksbill turtles ........which is true, but I still love them. However, for now it is believed that Green turtles nest all year round.... so there tracks are sometimes expected among the Hawksbill's tracks on the beaches.

Vanessa and Annabelle (Volunteer)
Although we all know that in a couple weeks we are going to be busy with the turtles, rushing into work early morning and leaving the beach late in the afternoon and past normal working hours, but we do it because we love these animals and after all we are the Conservation Team!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Humpback whales seen at east coast of Mahe

Today morning, around 9:30 AM we have received a phone call, telling that there has been some whale activity on the east coast of the island. Without any delay, we arrived at the spot. The hexocopter drone was in our possession in order to locate the whales from above. Unfortunately, the weather conditions and some technical issues didn't allow us to use the flying device, so we kept monitoring the bay from land.

On our way to the next observation point we saw it. A massive full-size jump form another side of the reef, it was definitely a humpback whale. Moreover, it was two adults. After spotting them, they were periodically jumping from the water with good synchronization.

It is unusual to see the humpback whales in this part of the island's waters, especially at this time of the year. Hopefully, next time the humpback whales will show their presence near the coast of the Mahe island the weather conditions will allow us to make better footage.