Thursday, October 23, 2008

I tracked Carol – school science project completed

“Carol is the name given to the surviving hawksbill turtle that MCSS had equipped with a hi-tec satellite-relayed GPS tag at the end of last year… and Carol seems set to cause quite a stir in scientific circles!” said Dr David Rowat of the environmental NGO, Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS).

The project dubbed “Tracking Carol, the Hawksbill Turtle” which is funded by Barclays Bank and being implemented by MCSS draws its support from the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles (WCS) and SeaTurtle.org. Until this project, there was little if any information on the movement patterns of the nesting turtle populations on the developed islands of Mahé and Praslin, nor where they go to forage between nesting seasons. With the support of Barclays Bank, two turtles nesting on the beaches on the South of Mahé were fitted with MK10AF satellite tracking tags that recorded their movement patterns and diving habits during the following months. Unfortunately, one of these was killed by a poacher on December 26th 2007, ten short days after being tagged. Luckily, the second turtle escaped his rampage and left the area safely. She was named “Carol” by Jessica Marengo, a member of Dolphin Wildlife Club as part of one of the school awareness programmes organised under this project in April 2008.

Carols track as plotted by the facilities on www.seaturtle.org

Carol’s location was tracked on-line through the facilities of www.seaturtle.org and were shared with teachers at local schools via the Wildlife Clubs through the internet with Barclays Bank providing two computers to the Wildlife Clubs at the Centre for Environment and Education (Nature Seychelles), Roche Caiman. According to Dr. Rowat, the tag was expected to last only 3 months given the tag’s programmed settings and associated battery life, but surprisingly, Carol is still transmitting 10 months on. She has spent the past two months off Mitsio islands off north-west Madagascar, bringing into question the previous school of thought which suggested that Hawksbill turtles remained on the Seychelles plateau between nesting seasons.

In addition to collecting scientific data, this programme was aimed at increasing public awareness of Seychelles turtles through a programme that integrated research into the activities of the schools and Wildlife Clubs as well as re-invigorating public awareness by several competitions including an art contest in April 2008 and a science-project contest, which was on display at the National Library between the 15th to 21st October.

One of the team displays, photo Elke Talma

“Tracking Carol, the hawksbill turtle” has generated a lot of interest amongst the youth and especially Wildlife Club members. Five clubs submitted displays for judging on the 14th October: Banyan Star Wildlife Club from Anse Etoile Primary school, Colibri Wildlife Club from Plaisance Secondary School, Mahogany Wildlife Club from Grand Anse Mahe Primary School, Vev Wildlife Club from La Digue Secondary School and ICT students from Plaisance Secondary School.

As this is a unique project, organiser felt that the prizes should be equally special. In addition to awarding prizes to the school children for their effort, it was equally important to recognise the team leaders (teachers) who kept their students motivated over the past few months.

In recognition of their effort and interest in turtle conservation, all participants received a t-shirts designed by MCSS, funded by Barclays Bank and printed by Hi-Tech graphics, a certificate of participation designed and printed by MCSS and subscription to the MCSS newsletters, namely Sagren, Torti d’mer and MCNews.

The first prize for the team project was sponsored by Masons Travel which was awarded to Colibri Wildlife Club: a “peaks of paradise” boat excursion to the North of Mahé, including lunch. The second prize, a boat trip to the Marine Park including lunch sponsored by Creole Travel Services, was awarded to Plaisance Secondary School, while the third prize a guided tour of the Vallee de Mai, including transfers between Praslin and La Digue, sponsored by Mason’s Travel and Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) was awarded to Vev Wildlife Club, La Digue.

Third place winners vev Wildlife Club receive their prize from Ingird Saurer on behalf of sponsors Masons Travel, photo Gilbert Gendron

Additional prizes were awarded to the teachers of the winning teams for their hard work and for keeping their students motivated. Ms. Juliette Cousin, team leader of the winning project, won a voucher for two nights on Cousine Island, a nature reserve where turtles nest, sponsored by Cousine Island Resort. The second prize was awarded to Ms. Mary-May Iman who will be treated to a scenic flight for two courtesy of Helicopter Seychelles whilst the third prize, lunch at Banyan Tree Resort, went to Mr Eric B. Atulo, Ms. Shirley Joubert, Ms. Elsie Rose, Mr. Davidson Jacques and Mr Claire Ernesta of Vev Wildlife Club.

Our thanks to the organising committee and judges for their hard work in choosing the winners of this programme and to all those who have participated in tracking Carol, she may yet have some further surprises for us. For the latest information on Carol check out the maps on the side bar of this blog.

1 comment:

Kanjuku said...

This is a cute and lovely story on the intrigues of research on turtles. Keep this blog alive.
Among the teachers who received awards is Eric B Atulo. If anyone knows him or his email addrress, I'd be glad to contact him. My email address is makembu2@yahoo.com or the email I've used to log in to this site.
Thank you.