Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nick's adventure with MCSS has come to an end

Only a few days left! After 20 weeks my adventure here is over, it has been amazing, with a lot of nice experiences and amazing people! 
Selfie with the drone!
Besides having a nice time some work had to be done as well of course, but this never felt like actual work because it is so relaxed and nice. Walking on the beaches looking for turtles, tracks and nests, terrapin trapping and building a terrapin and tortoise pen, these are the activities I have done the last 20 weeks which was lovely! I have seen a lot of turtles and fortunately even hatchlings.
Spotting the turtle with the drone
Spot the up and down track
 Flying the drone was also a lot of fun but not always as easy due to weather conditions. Unfortunately I have also encountered some poached turtles which was very sad, but it is almost inevitable when you work in conservation. But this made me more interested in the turtles and very excited whenever there was an up and down track instead of only up, at least we knew the turtle made it back into the sea safely.

In a few days I fly back to the cold and wet Netherlands and I know for sure that I will miss the nice relaxed lifestyle, the sun and all the people here! 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Introducing Nina - the newest member of the Ninja Turtles team!

Hey, I’m Nina  
I have recently finished my masters in Marine Environmental Protection and I am two weeks into an internship at MCSS. I am taking part in Vanessa’s project, where she focuses on creating temporal protected areas and legislation in relation to turtle distribution and their critical nesting beaches.
During my first day at the centre I was lucky enough to experience my first turtle encounter of 2018, which was also MCSS’s first turtle of the new year. 
digging the egg chamber
The following week, a turtle which was missing her hind right fin due to a shark attack attempted to nest on Anse Cachee. After making 4 body pits and failing to dig a nest due to too many roots, she finally found the right spot and nested. Her initial struggle paid off as she successfully laid 113 eggs (although they were much smaller than expected) and began to make her way back to the ocean. 
struggling to get over the rocks
With a little help to make it over the rocks she had finally completed her laying process. This took between 3-4 hours, which is a lot longer than the usual turtle nesting behaviour. The appropriate data was collected during this encounter including GPS location of the nest, photos of her face for use in the photo identification software (I3S) and carapace measurements. 
The monitoring and the data collected will contribute towards the development of management plans for nesting turtles.
So far this was most beautiful Hawksbill turtle and the most eventful encounter I have experienced. I hope my time at MCSS will continue to be as interesting and full of turtle encounters.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

All about learning and making the most of the school holidays


Hi all .... My name is Shea and I’ve been volunteering at MCSS for about one week so far during my school holidays.  In the mornings I help with the turtle patrols along 5 of the main nesting beaches down at Takamaka which we are currently doing 3 times a week. We have not been as lucky as to see a nesting turtle yet although we’ve spotted a few turtle tracks, where some had managed to actually lay. Hopefully my luck changes before my time here at MCSS comes to an end and I get to see a nesting turtle. 

learning to use the Trimble


digging up a hatched nest for data collection
In my short time here, I’ve got to learn and done things I haven’t done before which to me is a great experience. This morning we dug up a turtle nest from which had already hatched to record the egg clutch survival data.
 It was quite a successful nest where we found 161 hatched eggshells and only 5 rotten ones which is pretty good news. Now that it is nesting season hopefully we’ll start to see more and more turtles coming up the beach to lay or at least get to witness some hatchlings as they emerge from the nest and start their life journey.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Good & Bad ...all in one day!

Hi all,
the season is in full swing now, last week we had an amazing encounter with a nesting female Hawksbill turtle, being able to observe her whole nesting process from her emergence to her exit. We also had a couple of enthusiastic volunteers for the day; Johanna and Shepherd...in fact Johanna was the one to spot the turtle first! We stayed with the nesting turtle for almost 2 hours to ensure she safely made her way back to sea after laying her eggs.
Happy volunteers behind the nesting turtle
counting the eggs as they are laid
However, as we moved onto another nesting beach for patrol, the team found signs of a possible poached incident, as Vanessa the Project Leader went to double check, it was then observed that the turtle's up tracks had been erased by humans due to the footprints alongside the track and there wasn't any down tracks, after a quick search under some dry coconut leaves, the poached turtle was found, very likely hidden there for later collecting as she was still intact.
It was later observed that the turtle was barely alive and past away on it's way to try and get some treatment.



poached turtle found hidden under natural debris

injury to the head
 It is important that any poaching incidents observed are reported promptly and even if suspicious people are found around nesting beaches. Please do contact the authorities.
do take note!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Salome is back!

Hello All !
I'm back in Seychelles! I missed the turtles so much....I started in mid November.
The season was a bit weird, not a lot of turtles were coming to nest.... Maybe because of the el Nino in 2016, because of hurricane...?? We have to figure out what happened.
turtle patrol on Anse Corail
Hopefully since one week ago, I'm relieved to see the turtles are arriving! The numbers of tracks are increasing and the nests too: I had my first encounter for the season since I’ve been back.
Monday was a crazy...but exciting day, we had two turtles that came to nest... I could see all the process of the nesting behavior, because she had just arrived on the beach when we saw her. She had started with the body pit, and then she dug the nest with precision and laid. This turtle actually laid approximately 256 eggs…Incredible!...a new record definitely as Vanessa- the Project Leader said her record was 211 eggs counted during the laying process of one turtle.
tracks of poached turtle
Unfortunately, we also have had some poaching episode, I hope it will stop soon and people will understand that these turtles are critically endangered and they need our help to keep their population stable.

Continue to follow us, the season is not finished…in fact it is just starting to peak up!

Nick shares his experiences so far.

Hi..My name is Nick!

Flying the drone on Anse Bazarca

I am 22 years old and come from the cold, wet and flat Netherlands. Currently I’m on a 20 weeks internship as part of my education. I study Environmental Science and I’m in my third year.The first 10 weeks I spend in the North of Mahé, in Beau Vallon. There I worked with coral restoration and provided snorkelling tours for resort guests. We also build coral tanks where we used small coral fragments and grow them until they are big enough to be planted back into the ocean. Since half November I moved to the south, to AnseForbans, and joined the MCSS team there. Now I’m working on the Turtle Conservation project. This is a very nice project where we patrol beaches three times per week to check for turtle tracks and nests. I did not have a lot of knowledge about turtles before I came here but that is quickly changing. It is very interesting and beautiful to see a turtle nest and then make its way back into the ocean.

Checking the screen for any tracks
I am also testing the efficiency of drones to conduct beach patrols, so I get to fly the drone over some of the main nesting beaches to identify tracks and test whether it is faster to use the drone...which indeed it is, but walking the beach is still a must especially when there are indeed tracks and the team has to collect necessary data and check if the turtle laid.

I really love the life here in Seychelles and it was not very hard to get used to the climate and lifestyle here, except for the mountains though. It is going to be much harder to get used to the weather when I’m going back home in January (but I don’t want to think about that yet).







Friday, November 10, 2017

Will comes to the end with MCSS

Today is unfortunately my final day with MCSS. Over the last 4 weeks I have had the pleasure and absolute privilege to have input on several conservation projects including bird and terrapin monitoring, the new giant tortoise rehabilitation programme and of course my favourite: turtle monitoring. I have spent my mornings walking along some of the world's most beautiful beaches on the lookout for turtle tracks and nests, and my afternoons surveying their profiles for changes in sand gradient using both traditional and more modern drone-based techniques. It feels great to pass on GIS and computer mapping knowledge I have learnt at university and apply it to a real-world charity that does such important work.

I was fortunate enough to see a nesting turtle on my very first day with MCSS. Today, on my final turtle patrol, the island was kind enough to round off my trip by giving me another encounter. Whilst walking the far end of Anse Bazarca, eyes fixed on the high tide line for any sign of activity, I glanced up to the other end to see Vanessa waving her arms frantically in the air, a sight I always pray to see as it can only mean one thing - an actively nesting turtle!
within centimeters of a tourist!

Unfortunately, this turtle had chosen a rather poor spot to try and nest, along an open path area linking the beach and road. It had tried to dig a couple of pits but the sand was too compact and shallow. Its proximity to the road had also drawn a small crowd of tourists. It is at this point I feel obliged to mention the turtle watchers code of conduct once more. It is imperative that when encountering a sea turtle, you stay out of its line of sight, as still and quiet as possible and to give the creature plenty of space. Of course as tourists we want to capture videos and pictures to record this special moment, but this can't come at the expense of such a vital and delicate process. Turtle numbers are in decline and only ~1% of hatchlings reach adulthood, so it is of the utmost importance that we have as many undisturbed nestings as possible.

Whilst the crowd of people on this occasion were not overly disruptive, the poor location of the site forced this female to abandon its nesting attempt and return to the ocean. During its return crawl Vanessa and I were able to quickly approach and gather important size and head I.D. data, though because the turtle has not laid this can be mildly distressing, so can only be done by those trained to do so. She then glided swiftly back into the rolling waves, disappearing into the great blue. Hopefully on her return within the next few days she will find a suitably peaceful and appropriate spot to lay her precious cargo.
managed to exit the beach safely
I am incredibly sad to be leaving MCSS as I have made memories that will last a lifetime in what felt like such a short period of time. To witness a nesting turtle has forever been a dream of mine and to have fulfilled this at such a young age feels incredibly special. An encounter on my first and last day is a truly wonderful welcome and farewell to the Seychelles. Please take care of the islands and our oceans and continue to support charities like MCSS doing such honourable work.
Many thanks to all,
I will be back one day.

Will.