Monday, July 13, 2009

Ka-BOOOM - Watch your step!

For 2 years now, MCSS has been monitoring for nesting turtles at Anse Grand Police and to Elke's shock and horror it was recently revealed that the site was a mine field of unexploded ammunition!

For over 30 years, Police Bay was closed off to visitors as it hosted the Grand Police High Security Prison (closed in September 2006) and a shooting range (closed in early 2009) for the Seychelles People’s Defence Force (SPDF).

As a known nesting site with an estimated population of 11 to 20 female Hawksbill turtles (Mortimer, 1984), numerous attempts were made by staff from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) and MCSS to gain access to the beach. Finally, in September 2007, MCSS was allowed right of entry and thus added Anse Grand Police to its’ South Mahé Turtle Monitoring Programme. Elke was really pleased and declared herself “Turtle Queen” of South Mahe!

Anse Grand Police, with its SPDF Shooting Range located in the clearing behind the dune and the abandoned High Security Prison in the background, photo Guy Blain.

During the 2007-08 Nesting Season, it became clear that Anse Grand Police hosted a significant number of nesting turtles compared to its neighbouring beaches. When plans to build a Five Star Resort at the site were proposed, Elke was not at all happy about the prospect of tourist lounging on her nesting beach and messing with her turtles. The prolific poaching during 2008-09 Nesting Season (see previous blogs), however, has caused her to have a change of heart as the Hotel will surely discourage poachers from killing turtles on the beach and in the waters just offshore.

Anyway, back to the story!

As part of the new development’s planning process, the Arab consortium who owns the property organised for a bomb disposal team from U.A.E. to go over the shooting range - just in case - to search for possible unexploded munitions. They found more than they bargained for!

Metal detectors used to find the unexploded munitions, photo Elke Talma.

Quad bike, used on the nesting beach (much to Elke’s annoyance) to carry the heavy equipment and survey the dune areas at the South end of the beach, photo Elke Talma.

Their search area extended well beyond the shooting range and onto the turtle nesting platform and after 2 weeks, the team from U.A.E in collaboration with the Seychelles Army have declared the site safe – except for a small part in the wetlands which they were not equipped to deal on this trip!

Elke is keeping well clear of the wetlands until they return with the frog-men and submersible metal detectors!

A small sample of the bounty, photo Elke Talma.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You made the news!

Check out page 3 of REGAR (vol.18 no.23)