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!

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!

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!