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!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Annabelle's update

Really like the Trimble:)
About a month ago, I (Annabelle du Parc) joined MCSS and the Conservation Team as a volunteer to help Vanessa monitor the nesting beaches for turtles in the south of Mahé. Since then, we have found tracks of turtles on the beaches, new nests, damaged nests (by dogs), we have relocated a nest which was too close to the  high tide line on the beach.

taking emergence GPS
 Then on September 30th , while Vanessa was attending a very interesting workshop on Protected areas, organized by IOC, Aleks and I had the chance to encounter our first hawksbill turtle. Awesome!!!
Turtle encounter on GPO

Today, while MCSS was welcoming 2 students form Maritime School, we encounter as well a Hawksbill turtle who tried to find a nice place to lay her eggs, but unfortunately she left without nesting: the place was not comfortable enough! 

Turtle Encounter on COR
However, we restrained her while she was on her way back to the sea and checked if she had a tag, if she was not injured and we took identification pictures as well as measurements. What a great experience!! As The nesting season for hawksbill turtles has just started, this should happen more often and we should be very busy for the following months!!!

New maritime students (Celeste & Lynn)
Besides nesting turtles beaches monitoring, we also do beach profiling, in order to study the erosion of nesting beaches and their impact on turtles nesting behavior. With climate change and sea water levels increase threatening, this exercice done by MCSS once a month is of a great importance. Sea level rise could lead to erosion of coastal ecosystems and eliminate nesting beaches as well as wetlands. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

All about Sea Turtles!!

Exciting couple weeks here in south!

The nesting season for Hawksbill turtles has finally started; the beautiful creatures of the sea are coming up to lay their adorable little ping pong sized eggs on our beautiful beaches of Seychelles. We have been finding some sightings of turtles coming up some of the beaches and successfully laying their eggs. The first sighting was a green turtle that came up at Grand Police beach . 

Green turtle emergence track
I was so happy to see a green turtle track due to the fact that I was working on Aldabra before and that’s the most common turtle that comes up to nest on Aldabra. 

Vanessa joked around about how messy the green turtles are when they lay their eggs compared to the Hawksbill turtles ........which is true, but I still love them. However, for now it is believed that Green turtles nest all year round.... so there tracks are sometimes expected among the Hawksbill's tracks on the beaches.

Vanessa and Annabelle (Volunteer)
Although we all know that in a couple weeks we are going to be busy with the turtles, rushing into work early morning and leaving the beach late in the afternoon and past normal working hours, but we do it because we love these animals and after all we are the Conservation Team!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Humpback whales seen at east coast of Mahe

Today morning, around 9:30 AM we have received a phone call, telling that there has been some whale activity on the east coast of the island. Without any delay, we arrived at the spot. The hexocopter drone was in our possession in order to locate the whales from above. Unfortunately, the weather conditions and some technical issues didn't allow us to use the flying device, so we kept monitoring the bay from land.

On our way to the next observation point we saw it. A massive full-size jump form another side of the reef, it was definitely a humpback whale. Moreover, it was two adults. After spotting them, they were periodically jumping from the water with good synchronization.

It is unusual to see the humpback whales in this part of the island's waters, especially at this time of the year. Hopefully, next time the humpback whales will show their presence near the coast of the Mahe island the weather conditions will allow us to make better footage.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Passing on my droning skills!

Finally my acquired skills in drone flying are really being used to the maximum so far.... Inga Petelski is back with us and this time instead of being a volunteer...I'm thrilled to say she is now my colleague! The Project Leader for the Grand Police Wetland Project.

The upcoming UAV Pilot!
 I have been teaching Inga to fly the Hexacopter and how to plan Auto missions, I must say that we make a good good teaching skills and her wonderful learning skills make a great match! There is still much practice to be done though but I think soon Inga will be able to plan a whole mission and fly the drone without my assistance!
Auto landing after a mission
 Yesterday we managed to map 2/3 of the wetland area, next week with some fully charged batteries we will be back on site to complete the mapping, which is simply sending the drone in autopilot on a pre-planned path and the GoPro takes pictures every 2 secs. The pilot only follows the drone's movement from the computer ensuring it is on the mission and if anything goes wrong the pilot is ready to take over with the radio transmitter. Though the drone's Aotupilot is very precise and if for example there is a low battery issue, the auto pilot terminates the mission and returns to launch at the Home Location, which it where it first took off.
 To complete the map all the pictures are stitched together using a computer software which Inga and I will get to discover soon.
successfully landed!

Cleaning up Anse Grand Police

Wednesday 6th July was a great day with perfect weather and the perfect team for cleaning up Anse Grand Police. MCSS had a very enthusiastic group of volunteers from the International School of Seychelles who did a great job.
Lots of rubbish is washed up on the beach especially this time of the year and as we are still getting Green turtles coming to nest as they nest all year round, so it is important to constantly keep the nesting platform clear and clean.
the volunteers getting ready to start
 The team decided that a picture of their success was needed, it was quite hot but the cool breeze from the sea kept them going....and of course the beautiful surrounding kept them motivated to leave this beach rubbish least for the day.
bags full of rubbish!
 After collecting, the great task at hand was to then carry....or drag everything to the middle of the beach where all the rubbish was sorted and the cans and pet bottles found would be redeemed later on for recycling purposes and the extra cash goes towards the MCSS projects, especially the Rehabilitation and the Turtle Conservation Project.
dragging the heavy bags to the truck
Special thanks to the volunteers and the International School of Seychelles!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

after 5 amazing months we say goodbye to is her last blog!

Last Wednesday, near Anse Governement beach, Vanessa and I had a break down with the car. The brake was not working anymore and we were driving downhill!! Luckily, Vanessa is a very good driver who had the situation under control managed to stop the car with the handbrake and gradually moving to first gear ........without even panicking! We had to wait around 2 hours the mechanic and our other colleagues to pick us up. Anyway, it was ok, because during all this time we were chatting J.

We survived!
Lea trying to be superwoman!
Wednesday 5th of June was my last patrol, I was very sad… It was the last time for me to patrol all the beaches we monitor. I was used to that routine for the past 5 months. I will miss every Wednesday morning, driving with Vanessa and looking for tracks or turtles!! At  Anse Government we stop 2 minutes to take a selfie with Robinson Crusoe!....... Yes the famous Robinson Crusoe… every Wednesday we usually see this guy (with long hair and long beard) on the beach enjoying life, doing nothing and drinking is kaloo (local alcoholic drink made from coconut trees)… So for my last day we decided to have a selfie with him and he was absolutely ok with the idea!!
Once in a lifetime picture with Robinson Crusoe!
 5 months ago, I joined the MCSS team. It was just amazing. I have done a lot of thing. During the two first months, I was helping Vanessa to monitor the beaches for turtle activities. It was lots of amazing moment with turtles (measuring the carapace, counting the number of eggs, writing at what time she was doing each step for the nesting process). I also had to dig the most amazing nest ever. When I was digging one nest, we found 225 hatchlings already on their way out to the water... Wow, I was so lucky.
During this internship, I have also done lots of birds’ survey, setting up trap to catch terrapins and doing beach profiling every month.
Otherwise, since the first of April, we had our patient Eden that we need to take care of every day, so since two months now, we have to forced feed him, weigh him, and clean the tank. I will miss this beautiful marine turtle a lot. I hope he will get better soon and will live as long as possible, because we do our maximum for this cute turtle.
Feeding Eden

Finally ....I would like to say a big thank you to Vanessa who taught me lots of things and who has always been so nice to me. And also, a big thank you for David, Jonny, Holly, Rebecca, Imogen and the others who were working with me and who made my internship in Seychelles an amazing one . 

Last beautiful picture together!