Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Little French Flavour!

Hello dear Fans of the turtle we are the new intern turtle monitoring team with a French style for a new nesting season!

We are the new volunteers to study the turtle with MCSS until February. Every day with Vanessa, we patrol on South Mahe Island beaches to find tracks and if we are lucky encounter turtle or hatching babies. 

This year MCSS decided to intensify the patrol to fight against the turtle poachers. Indeed, eating turtle is an old Christmas tradition for the Seychellois....... one tradition that MCSS is working hard to eliminate due to the continued decrease in turtle population.

Yesterday we were patrolling at Anse Cachée when we bumped into a laying Hawksbill turtle. While Anaïs was monitoring her, Vanessa and Hubert had been warned by the care taker of the property that there was a turtle in distress in the bushes. Running to rescue the poor animal, they found her turned upside down under a pile of coconut palm leaves. It is a method used by the poacher to avoid the turtle to escape when they wanted to kill her later and stay out of the people’s view. 
 The turtle turned upside down under the palm leaves 
The turtle was so weak, the team had to turn her over and carry her close to the beach. In the action, we saw a solid string attached to her back flipper. According to the tracks on the beach, we then understood the poachers had dragged her from the beach to the bushes by using the string. 

We dropped off the turtle next to the water and let her find the liberty again. We were all pleased to see the turtle swimming and really happy to have rescued her. 
Finally free!
It is not sure she will come back to lay on this beach again due to the amount of stress she has encountered on this trial …

Fortunately, it is the second time we rescued a turtle and hopefully, MCSS can count on people such as beach police and any friends of the turtles out there to keep an extra eye on the turtles during the nesting season and inform us on any harm brought to the turtles so that the situation can be dealt with promptly. 
Vanessa, Aurélia, Hubert and Anaïs rescuing the first poached turtle at Anse Corail the 9th December 

See you later for new adventure !

Monday, January 19, 2015

Nesting season 2014-2015

Another season filled with much excitement, enthusiasm but some heartbreaking moments as well. Tracks, nests and encounters....... these are all I have in mind whenever we are going out for the turtle walks! ....... This is every day except for the weekends. The numbers of patrols have increased as we have now included Tuesdays and Thursdays for anti – poaching patrols. This was decided a must after recording such a significant number of poaching incidents in the South of the island.

So much happening in so little time...... one day we save a turtle which was left upside down by poachers for later collection..... but we got there first.........
                             .......... and make it to the papers!

Then the next few days we find this........
 Too late this time......poachers win again!
We have had some really great moments as well, the little ones are coming out and you can imagine our excitement especially while finding this........   A little loner while digging up a nest for the egg clutch survival data....fortunately it was still full of life and managed to make it’s imprints on the beach before successfully entering the sea.
....... Good luck little one!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Turtle & Terrapin Project

We just thought you might like to know about a new project the MCSS team is undertaking with the Banyan Tree hotel which besides monitoring turtles and terrapins will be setting up a rehabilitation facility for them....You can find out all about it on our new project blog.

Wildlife Vets International are supporting the development of the Turtle and Terrapin Rehabilitation Facility at the Banyan Tree Resort. They are hoping to generate funds through the "Big Give Christmas Challenge" which allows matching funds of up to $4000 from the organisers! They are including our project in their wildlife vet development project in Seychelles and Mauritius which was mainly focused on birds so expanding to turtles and terrapins is a good move! So Please do visit their information page, watch the video and make a donation as whatever you donate will be matched by the Big Give!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Join whale shark intern Amber on a special day turtle monitoring with the MCSS team...

Having your day off fall on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday is always something to look forward too. It means that you have the option to spend the day with Vanessa (Madanm Torti) and walk some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen looking for turtle tracks and nests. You may even get to witness a turtle digging and laying its’ eggs. 

Last Wednesday started off as your typical beach clean-up day on Grande Police removing debris and low hanging vegetation to allow space for the turtles to nest. After two hours of cleaning a good size area, we walked the rest of the beach and found some turtle tracks. We then walked Petite Police, but did not see any tracks. Our next stop was Bazarca. As we walked along, Vanessa just stopped, sat down the turtle bag and started pulling out the clipboard and GPS. I saw the tracks so I just assumed that’s what we were looking at. I started writing on the clipboard and when I got down the next section on nest information, Vanessa said the Hawksbill turtle had laid eggs. We all looked up and asked her how she knew it laid. She told us that we were looking right at the nest. She put her hand in the mound of sand with vines and coconuts on top and said this is it. Well that turtle definitely fooled me! 
 Vanessa starts excavating the nest...
The nest was right at the high tide line so we had to work fast to move the nest further up the beach. Vanessa, Sophie and I started digging very quickly and gently while Freya ran to the car to get supplies. Once Sophie found the eggs, Freya and I started digging a nest further up the beach above the eroded bank which inhibited the turtle from digging farther up the beach. Sophie and Vanessa laid the eggs under an umbrella in the order they came out of the nest. Once all 149 eggs we removed, we started an assembly line to quickly get the eggs reburied in the order they had come out of the previous nest. 
 Gently removing the eggs from the doomed nest...
Then lining them up in the shade ready to re-locate...
There are no words to describe how precious and rewarding that moment was to me. Holding those precious lives in your hands just makes you appreciate life more yourself. I have several friends and a room-mate  that work for the Broward County Sea Turtle Program back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and I’ve always listened to them talk about what they do at work. Digging in the sand with your bare hands, placing all the eggs in the nest and then covering it back up and camouflaging the nest gives you a sense of attachment to it. It was nice to get to finally experience that firsthand.  Vanessa said that that is our nest and she will keep us posted on it and let us know when it has hatched. 
And then finally placing them in a new safe nest!
A special thanks to Vanessa and the MCSS team for allowing us the opportunity to participate in these types of activities and gain the hands on experience that will help us move forward as we pursue careers in marine biology and other related fields. 
...Amber Metallo

Sunday, September 7, 2014

YES we are still here!!

David has at last found the password to get back on to the blog so some long over-due posts can now be put up... for those of you who wondered where we were our apologies, it has been a very busy year! But enough of this and on to the important stuff starting with this report from Vanessa and the turtle team!

Turtle Season 2013-2014

It’s been a productive turtle season and I’ve gained so much knowledge about the beautiful sea turtles and even got the chance to share the knowledge with volunteers and interested tourists, which was fun. I’ve had a lot of turtle encounters, once I even had 3 turtles come up together…… it was crazy……. But I managed to share myself among them and gather some info on each……… I’m nicknamed the Turtle Magnet at the office now!!!
Me with my first turtle encounter at Anse Intendance….. I was over the moon!!
The patrols during the peak season were really hectic but I enjoyed every minute of it and got excited by every track found or a simple indication that the turtles were around!!  So you can imagine how I got when a turtle was encountered…… but no worries…… I kept myself under control and in line with the sea turtle monitoring protocol!!
The beginning of the long nesting session!!

So now we are out of the peak season and I’m mostly concentrated on the Egg Clutch Survival data……. I must admit……. Digging up nest is not for the faint-hearted!! …………it gets really smelly and disgusting sometimes due to rotten eggs!! But the thrill of finding a few hatchlings, left behind and really tired unfortunately …… helping them find their way a little bit was really emotional….. it is important to note though that Hatchlings should be left to find their own way to the sea as it is essential for their survival and so as to have a good sense of direction, especially for the females so that they can come back to nest one day, but giving a little hand is essential when the Hatchlings seem weak.!!

Pete, Harriet and Dan digging up a nest on Anse Grand Police
It’s been an amazing journey so far ………patiently waiting for the peak of the next turtle season!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We're Back!!

Apologies to all our readers for our prolonged silence... with various staff changes and new projects going on the blog posting has suffered dramatically but we have still continued all of the turtle monitoring activities even if we have been silent!

We now have two new dedicated staff members, Vanessa Dodin and Nella Victor and as both are nuts about turtles you should be hearing from them regularly from now on.... So a first post from Vanessa:

I LOVE TURTLES.... its official!

Hi there, my name is Vanessa Didon, I’m new and OMG........I seriously think I’ve got the best job in the world right now!! Conducting the turtle walks is my favourite task, having just started this interesting job with MCSS, I’ve been to around a dozen turtle walks already, each time with much anticipation, wondering what I will find along the way, wishing so much to encounter some turtles or even signs that they’ve been around!

Georgia, Simon & Vanessa stand above an erosion cliff on South Mahe

 So far, we have discovered one nest on Anse Cachee  and came across two turtle tracks, one belonging to a green turtle at Grand Police and the other for a Hawksbill turtle at Anse Corail. Unfortunately neither of them had laid due to some obstacles along the way, like erosion cliffs and hard soil. The track at Anse Corail was so fresh when found on Monday, it seemed like we had missed encountering the turtle by less than an hour!!  

Anyway, walking along some of the beaches, it’s an eye sore to see how much rubbish are is left behind usually after picnics or simply washed ashore from other places.......COME ON PEOPLE!! How hard can it be to put your rubbish in the bins. Some of those this rubbish can be very harmful for the turtles, as they can for example mistake it for food and choke on the it. So, no way am I going to walk away from the beaches without doing some cleaning up....... Yup....let’s fill up the bin bags!!

Yup... the black bin-bags are out!

It is my utmost responsibility and intention to help in the conservation of all marine Life.... especially my very best animal in the whole wide world......the Turtles......  I take pride in myself and my organisation when people ask me this question during the walks... “What are you doing?”......... of course I proudly answer.....”patrolling the beaches to monitor any turtle related activities”.......and in  my mind....”help to protect the turtles ...but if you’re a bad person towards turtles....BEWARE... I’ve got my eyes on you!” 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hawksbill Turtle Nesting Season Is Back Again!!

The hawksbill turtle nesting season 2012-2013 got underway on the 16th July 2012. As with past seasons, the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS) turtle monitoring team start the season with the usual once weekly patrol of the nesting beaches in the South, South East and South West of  the Island of Mahe. The patrol frequency will increase to twice a week in September and eventually three times per week during its peak from October- February 2013.

There are two species of marine turtles that nests in the Seychelles waters. Chelonia mydas (green turtle) nest mostly at night throughout the year and Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle) nest seasonally only during daytime.

At this time of year hawksbill turtles swim very long distances from their feeding ground to the Seychelles waters where they will mate and tirelessly crawl up the beach to deposit their precious loads of egg clutches in the sand to incubate, before returning back to their feeding ground.  Around 30-35 years ago these females hawksbill turtle were among some very tiny hatchlings which incubated on one of the nesting beaches of the Seychelles Islands. Now they are back again every two years to once again continue the nesting turtle cycle. Luckily some of the marine turtles might be able to safely make it back to sea while others might not be that lucky at this time when they are most vulnerable to poachers.

During the past four weeks only two nests have been recorded so far. The 1st turtle nest (hawksbill) was recorded on the 1st of August 2012 at Anse Grand Police after some heavy rainfall which occurs in the southern region.  During the last turtle patrol, lots of crab holes were seen in the nest and some eggshells were also found which indicate some crabs have been busy partying with fresh turtle eggs. Frequent dog activity also indicates that the nest has been partly dug up by stray dogs. 

 Predated Eggshell from the 1st nest at Anse Grand Police, dug up by crabs.

Another Hawksbill turtle nest was recorded on Saturday the 11th August 2012 at Anse Intendance (Photo below) by the Banyan Tree Resort turtle monitoring staff. The turtle probably nest the day before as no tracks were seen above the high water mark along the beach. We hope during the incubation period, the nest will incubate safely due to some sand erosion presently happening along the beach. 

Hawksbill turtle nest (2012-2013 season) at Anse Grand Police and Anse Intendance respectively.