Saturday, December 19, 2009

Famous Five back in Seychelles

In March 2009, the German customs officers confiscated a number of turtle eggs from a woman who had returned to Germany after a holiday in Seychelles. The eggs were sent to Frankfurt Zoo and placed in an incubator where five of them hatched shortly after and the hatchlings were then carefully reared by the staff. The smuggler was fined Euro 5000 ($7300) by German officials it was reported, and we have to applaud the actions of the German customs authorities in helping stamp out this illegal activity.

Today, nine months later, sponsored by airline Condor, the young turtles arrived in Seychelles accompanied by Mr Dirk Hausen of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and Mr Michael Schüler of Hessicher Rundfunk TV. They were greeted by Ronley Fanchette of the Ministry of Environment, Dr. David Rowat and Elke Talma of MCSS, Alain St. Ange of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Dr Jimmy Melanie from the Seychelles Veterinary Clinic and a film crew from the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation.

The turtles in their transit box, photo Elke Talma

After an 8 hour flight, with no food nor drink since 5pm Seychelles time the day before, the turtles passed their veterinary inspection. While the original plan was to released them immediately, Elke and David managed to convince the authorities that it would probably be best to allow the turtles to acclimatise to our warmer climate…also at an average length of 20cm it seemed murderous to drop them onto a reef to be fed on by large fish and any resident sharks! Usually turtles of this size would be safely hiding in seaweed mats floating in mid-ocean, far away from toothy predators...

Unfortunately, Seychelles is not equipped to deal with rescued marine animals but luckily there is a Black Pearl Farm on Praslin Island with salt water ponds large enough that would be a suitable temporary home for the repatriated turtles. A few quick phone calls and the owners of the farm confirmed they were happy to accept these new residents on a temporary basis.

But how to get them there, especially with such a large welcoming committee!
 However, a private flight was soon arranged to get them to Praslin. After being measured and photo-ID’ed by Elke, the Famous Five were released into their temporary home. It was heart warming to see them swim off to the other end, and shortly after begin feeding on the algae and invertebrates growing in the pond.

Dirk saying his last goodbye to one of the young turtles, photo Elke Talma

The turtle’s will be under the care of Victorin Laboudallon of the Ministry of Environment on Praslin for the next two weeks before being released into their natural habitat. During his interview with Michael, Victorin thanked the German people for returning our natural heritage and offered to name them after five German cities.

Young turtles inspecting their new home, photo Elke Talma

After a quick Google search, Elke has already picked out some names:
1. Berlin (a.k.a Bernie)

2. Munich (a.k.a Moo)

3. Hamburg (a.k.a Hammie)

4. Cologne (a.k.a Col)

5. Frankfurt (a.k.a Frankie)

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