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!


Isabella...........
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.

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!