Monday, September 17, 2018

Nesting turtles & enthusiastic volunteers!

It's been pretty quiet with the turtles in the south and patrols have mostly consisted of collection of rubbish on the main nesting beaches and a few Green turtle tracks here and there, but everyone is now patiently waiting for the appearance of the first Hawksbill turtle to officially announce the nesting season open... we look forward for the first tracks or even better...the first encounter! We have quite a few enthusiastic volunteers and interns around... Kitty shares her axperiences so far....

Kitty(left) & Jenny
My name is Kitty Daniels and I’m taking a year out between college and university to learn more about Marine Conservation. I arrived at the Banyan Tree Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation Centre at the start of this week to join Vanessa’s turtle monitoring project. I started off with a ‘Turtle Season Briefing’ which outlined what to do when I find a turtle nest, and how to collect the relevant data for the project. As it is only the beginning of the nesting season, we have not spotted  many signs of turtle nesting, but today we found green sea turtle tracks on Anse Grand Police, which is exiting because Green Turtles are not common in this part of the Seychelles. I have also helped with Beach Profiling, which is a monthly survey to monitor the sand movement on the beach in relation to the nesting platform for the turtles. So far this has just involved desk-based data entry, but I’m looking forward to getting stuck in on the beach! I have also taken part in the Banyan Tree Hotel’s ‘Management Cocktails’, which didn’t involve any cocktails for me, but I was able to speak to the guests about the upcoming nesting season, and to promote the centre and offer tours of the facilities. I’m very much looking forward to the next three months  I will spend here and for turtle season to really get underway!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Alexandra shares her experiences with different MCSS projects

My name is Alexandra McCallum, I’m a 21 year old student from Canada and for the past four weeks I’ve been volunteering with MCSS to acquire a feel for the field of conservation biology. I spent my first two weeks in the North on the Coral Reef Restoration project at Fisherman’s Cove and then moved South to work on the Banyan Tree Terrapin project. Since having been at the Banyan Tree, I have been able to see many of the tasks at hand and got a feel for the work that is done here. I arrived in the South on a Monday afternoon, where I got to meet everyone working on the project and was shown around the facilities a bit. I then officially started on the Tuesday and already had a bunch to do on my first day, which I was very excited about! I went out with the team to check for terrapins in the traps located at different pond sites, as well as add bait to the traps. This is done in the morning and in the afternoon (at 9am and at 2:30pm). However, we did not find any terrapins that morning. Following the trapping, we joined Vanessa who was removing Water Hyacinths, an invasive plant species that take up vital living space for the terrapins.

pulling out the water hyacinths

This took us the rest of the morning as there were a lot to remove! After lunch, I went to go check out the Giant Tortoises, which are held in an enclosure behind the offices. They were extremely gentle and loved to be pet. One even tried to climb out of the water onto the rock I was sitting on just to get a bit of affection! At 2:30,we went out again to check the traps and found a terrapin!

cute baby terrapin!

 I was very excited to have gotten to see one on my first day as I did not expect this to be a common occurrence. Once back, I watched how Rebecca and Megan measured and tagged the terrapins and put them into the rehabilitation jacuzzis, where they stay until they are released back into their respective pond sites the next day. It was about 4pm by then so everyone started to gather their things and head home. 

turtle monitoring team

The following day, I came in expecting to do the exact same thing but in fact it was quite different. I went with Vanessa to do beach patrolling for turtle tracks and nests. 

beach patrol on Anse Grand Police
beach clean up!

We also brought garbage bags along to pick up trash along the beaches. We spotted green turtle tracks and a new nest that had been made the day before,it was really cool to see! One thing that really surprised me however was the amount of trash along the beach.We picked up 2 garbage bags full of flip flops, plastic bottles, glass and just waste left behind or brought in with the tide.We patrolled several beaches, including some surrounded by lush forests, and were all really beautiful. Once we got back, I shadowed Evita as she gave a tour to some of the hotel guests,so that I would also be able to give tours of the premises when needed. The next two weeks followed the same outline but remained really interesting. One day we even caught seven terrapins! Overall, this has been a great learning experience for me and I highly recommend taking part in these projects, as you are guaranteed to always find something to do!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fresh Tracks...New nest!

It has been very quiet for a long while and even when we were in the nesting season it wasn't that busy too sadly.
Nils doing the split!
Nonetheless, our last patrol brought some excitement around finally, where two sets of Green turtle tracks were spotted on one of the main nesting beaches. The tracks were so fresh and we were all wishing we could have encountered the turtles. However Green turtles usually nest in the early hours or at night when it's dark, so our chances of encountering them are low.
The Interns on patrol were so excited to see some tracks finally and as for me I was relieved more then excited, firstly to see that the turtles are still around and made it safely back to sea after their nesting activities and secondly I was relieved that the tracks could finally bring some proof to the interns that all my teachings and explanations about sea turtle monitoring could be put to be to the test. We had to identify the up and down tracks and detect if the turtle had successfully nested, but the big test was to be able to do a split while trying to measure the width of the track which were approximately 110cm!
Keeping the interns busy - measuring and recording!
The nesting beaches need constant monitoring even if we are not in the peak of the nesting season, lots of rubbish are being washed up onto the beach everyday and we aim to keep the beaches clean and clear, so rubbish collection is a task we undertake to reach our aim, but individuals are encouraged to help by collecting at least three pieces of rubbish when visiting the beaches and moreover never to leave any after visiting as well, especially people who like to have picnics.

Closer to the nesting season, we will carry out a more in depth cleaning and clearing of the nesting platform as well, where dry vegetation and non beneficial plants are removed. Other than that, we will be keeping a close eye on the new Green turtle nest and hope that the next couple of months treats the eggs well!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Nils' additional help with the turtle project

Nils started his internship with MCSS a few weeks ago.... Not the best period to be working on the Temporal Protected Areas Project for sea turtle conservation as there isn't any around at the moment since we are out of the nesting season for hawksbill turtle, nonetheless he has been involved on quite a few task, as he shares below........

Hello everyone! My name is Nils and currently I am involved with Vanessa’s TPA-Project in
the south of Mahé. As a part of my master’s programme I am volunteering with the MCSS.
Because the nesting season for Hawksbill turtles is already over for this time of the year I am
following different tasks than the daily monitoring of the beach. One of my main tasks for
the last two weeks was the maintenance of the Photo-ID-Database that the MCSS
established. I modified some features that makes the work easier to handle for the future
database modification for Turtle ID

Additionally, to the land-based computer work I got involved to create a whole new in-water
seafloor assessment. The goal is it to characterize the main nesting beaches by their depth
and substrate on the seabed. By doing line-transects along the beach at certain distance we
collect our data. So far, we only carried it out on Anse Intendance to get an idea whether it
works the way we planned it. For future times we would like to extend this survey to other
nesting beaches.
The main reason for doing this is to get an idea of how the seafloor character and the depth
might influence the turtles to get out of the water at a certain point. Several publications
suggest that Hawksbill turtles and Green Sea turtles prefer different habitat characteristics.
Hopefully the transects will be successful and the data add up to the understanding of the
nesting turtles.

first pilot survey of the Intendance seafloor

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Shanilla's first day on her work attachment with MCSS

Hello, my name is Shanilla Young-Kon
I’m 18 years old. I live at Anse Forbans. I’m a student at Seychelles Maritime Academy studying Fisheries Science. I have an infinite passion and love for the oceans. I was currently placed at the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles(MCSS)- Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation Centre- Banyan tree for my work base experience for the next 3 months. 

Finding hatchlings on the first day!
Unfortunately on my first day the turtle nesting season was already over and I didn’t get to see any turtles but luckily while patrolling and monitoring some nests on the nesting beaches patrolled by MCSS, we manage to see some hatchlings One particular nest had over 200 of them crawling anxiously to the sea, we ensured they all made it safely into the sea, it was so amazing.
I can’t wait for the upcoming adventure ahead of me.

Hatchlings erupting!

the racers!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Emma's successful volunteering with the south projects!

Five and a half months in and finally I was lucky enough to see some hawksbill turtle hatchlings. I have spent most of my time with MCSS volunteering on the Fishermen’s Cove and Cerf island projects which are focused on corals, during which we frequently see turtles but was yet to see any hatchlings. And while many people think of 13 as an unlucky number March 13th was a great day for me, with 14 little hatchlings making an appearance.
Although most of the hatchlings from a 180+ egg clutch had already made their way out to the sea, possibly during the cooler temperature of the night, 14 hatchlings were still waiting to make their journey. We dug them out of the nest were they were waiting, weighed and measured 10 of them, and I attempted to keep the weighed and measured ones in a sand pen whilst we waited for the others, but they were extremely persistent to get to the sea. Keeping three or four in was fine but once it got to eight or nine they were definitely winning. I was really surprised at how strong they were and they can really wrap their fins around your hands and grip on.
Once the ten had been weighed and measured and a few guests from the hotel had arrived to watch the hatchlings, we let them make their own way down the beach and into the surf. Some of the hatchlings reached the sea shockingly quickly, whilst others seem to fall into every foot print possible. All 14 hatchlings made it to the sea without any help needed and swam off into the big ocean. Good luck little guys and I have my fingers crossed for more hatchlings this week.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Nathalie the new turtle volunteer

truly enjoying the experience
My name is Nathalie and I've come here for a voluntary mission of 1 month. I am really interested in conservation issues since I decided to make drastic changes in my life, quitting my work in finance to dedicate myself in marine environmental sciences. Coming here is providing me with a good insight of different activities and projects that can be done within a conservation center. I am mainly taking part in Vanessa's project with Nina, performing patrols and monitoring turtles (populating the database, using software faces recognition...). More than helping them directly on the field, the final aim is trying to get a better understanding of turtles' behavior, in order to create the best Temporal Protected Areas for a sustainable preservation. This relates with other current studies like beach profiling, mapping, fauna, flora and sand analysis.

turtle encounter on the nesting beach
Since being here, I had the luck to see 5 nesting Hawksbill turtles, including two which were laying and 2 hatchlings emerging from their nest. It's always emotional moments and I feel really privileged to be able to assist that, especially since the Hawksbill is a critically endangered species.

clearing the path for the little ones
I am also helping to educate classes from primary schools when they come to visit the centre. Raising children's awareness is very important as we can expect them to feel more involved in preserving the environment in the future, be it in Seychelles or anywhere else.

Another thing that is really enjoyable here is wildlife centre and the ability to welcome wild animals for rehabilitation. The care is not only provided to terrapins, sea and land turtles, but also to any animal that can be properly nursed, like baby birds. Pets are also welcome and an X rays is accessible to anybody who needs a diagnostic of their lovely animal.

checking out the terrapins
welcoming the land tortoises for rehabilitation
My wishes for MCSS and Seychelles is that legislation will support all the efforts made by NGOs and take appropriate measures to help to fight against poaching as much as possible.