Friday, October 23, 2009

Yup, they were sleeping too!

In the most recent of the ongoing turtle Awareness Training that MCSS has been carrying with funding from the Mangrove for the Future, Elke visited the Global Vision International project at Bay Ternay to speak to their volunteers about turtles on the 15th October.

With about 30 people in attendance, the one hour session lasted nearly 2 hours as Elke answered a number of difficult questions from some keen turtle enthusiasts.

During the talk, we had the obligatory person fighting to stay awake but as this was Elke’s 12th session this year, she decided to just go with the flow....

The GVI team – turtle aware, photo Mario Mulders

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Turtle volunteer gets to play with sharks

Hi again!

Just before I finished my internship in the Turtle Monitoring Programme with Elke, I had the chance to join David and his team of volunteers on one of the whale shark trips. What an exciting experience!

In a van with snorkel, fins and towel we went to Anse La Mouche in the south of Mahé to take off with the boat from there. Rough and windy sea gave us hard conditions to go out, but thanks to the microlight locating individual whale sharks, sightings were guaranteed.

Intern Dominique gets ID photos of this shark, photo Luke Riley

Although those giant animals seem to move very slowly, that was mostly not the case, also due to being very shy they started diving as soon as they were fed up with the many people around them. Despite being seasick for a while, I enjoyed the trip very much.

OK this little guy is coming right for me!! Photo Luke Riley

Compared to the work on turtles, I must admit, turtles are easier to handle, since they move a lot slower and are easier to observe.

I liked the voluntary work very much and want to thank every one for the great support and the welcoming atmosphere!

… news from Caterina.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

German Navy saves the day

With the Somali pirates wrecking havoc in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles has been seeing a lot of Navy vessels in the harbour as part of the NATO forces to address this matter.

During a recent visit, the German Navy were doing manoeuvres around Mahé in their Lynx Helicopter and inadvertently saved some turtles.

To hear the locals tell it, the suspected poachers who have been hanging around the south of the island since the beginning of October, turned tail and ran after the Germans circled them repeatedly that morning.

The Germans are watching you, photo Donn du Preez

At least for that day, their illegal operation was closed down.

Vielen Dank meine Herren, I declare you all Honorary Turtle Conservation Officers

Two for the price of one

On the 21st September, Elke was on Praslin to provide training for staff at Constance Lemuria Resort on Turtles. The plan was for one general session on Turtle Awareness and another Refresher Training in Monitoring Methods for the Lemuria Turtle Team, but due to popular demand on the day, a second session on Turtle Awareness was organised for the management staff.

The General Manager, Jacques Charles was in attendance with most of his management team, making this the highest profile talk Elke has ever done. A little nervous at first, Elke soon got into the swing of things once she realised that one member of the audience was dozing away - business as usual it would seem!
Over 20 staff from the Resort attended the training sessions.

Elke also took time to visit the beach with Robert Matombe (Turtle Manager) and Maxime Rachel (coordinator of Environmental Committee), to discuss options for beach rehabilitation on Anse Grand Kerlan.

Petite Anse Kerlan - an unlikely nesting beach, but that didn’t stop one turtle from nesting three times last season, photo Elke Talma

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Desperate housewife supports turtle conservation

Roberta Wild, Elke’s childhood friend and mom of 3, has agreed to assist MCSS with turtle monitoring on North East Point beach. Layla, her youngest, is now old enough to go to school and Roberta is keen to get out of the house after 5 years of child minding confinement.

Roberta practicing measuring a turtle's carapace, photo Elke Talma

On the 3rd of October, Roberta and Elke met up on the beach for a “gentle” 25 minute stroll along the beach followed by a 30 minute talk about monitoring techniques before heading back to the car (another 25 minute stroll) … unfortunately there was nothing to report so Roberta has been given strict instructions to call Elke if she sees anything suspicious during her weekly patrols.

Roberta has been roped in under a new MCSS turtle project being funded by Mangrove for the Future which aims to help conserve turtle rookeries on Mahe through public awareness and participation Marcel and Patricia are also helping out by monitoring Anse Petite Marie Louise, Adam will add Anse Capuchin to his monitoring schedule, Jude and Randolf Bijoux will be monitoring Anse Bougainville, Vanessa Zialor will cover Anse Royale and Elke will squeeze in Anse Government on her way to Petite Anse. All these beaches were previously done by Gilberte Gendron, who heartless abandoned us after receiving a scholarship form the French Embassy to sit for a degree in Marine and Environmental Science...

Four Season Resort supports Turtle Conservation project on Petite Anse

As previously mentioned, the management of Four Seasons Resort expressed an interest in helping MCSS in the turtle conservation effort and this collaboration was launched with a Turtle Awareness Session on the 28th September.

A second session was organised, the following day with a total of 14 staff in attendance. A brief session finished off this training exercise with Robin Bhugaloo being elected Turtle Officer, with the assistance of Niranjan Wimalasooriyan from Four Seasons and Karen Owens from Dive Resort Seychelles.

Group photo of the enlightened Four Seasons staff, photo Elke Talma.

During the 2008-09 season, a total of 6 nest were reported by the Tourism Police and Resort staff. With the increased human activity on the beach and the sea, following the opening of the Resort, it remains to be seen if we can maintain these numbers in the coming seasons.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Turtle rudely interrupts Elke’s well prepared turtle talk

During the annual refresher training on the 24th September for the Turtle Team at Banyan Tree Resort, a turtle ruined Elke’s well prepared theory session, by emerging 30 minutes into the 1 hour long PowerPoint presentation.

This provided a great opportunity to shift to an impromptu practical session to explain:
• How to restrain a turtle on her way back to sea
• How to measure a turtle’s carapace correctly

• How to flipper tag a nesting turtle

• How to take pictures for photo ID

While Anders Dimblad held onto the turtle, Elke, surrounded by the Banyan Tree Turtle Team and a group of eager tourist, proceeded with the training. However, to minimise the stress to the animal following a failed emergence, it was decided that only one tag would be deployed at this time.

Turtle emerging on Intendance beach, photo Marcel Mathiot

At the end of the session with the turtle, the Banyan Tree Turtle Team had increased in size from 4 members to 8: Adam Abdulla, although absent, retained his title as Turtle Team Leader, Paul Isaac and Cedrick Thomas were promoted to the Turtle Monitoring & Tagging Team, Danny Bibi and Anders Dimblad, the Hotel Manager at Banyan Tree, were re-instated to the Turtle Monitoring & Tagging Team while Christopher Belle, Bernhard Kolsch and Marcel Oostenbrink formed part of the Turtle Monitoring Team (i.e. not authorised to tag turtles).

Marcel and Patricia Mathiot were also in attendance as Anders had given the go-ahead for them to join the Banyan Tree Turtle Monitoring Training/Refresher Session.
Additional sessions in Turtle Awareness were also organised throughout September with over 40 Banyan Tree Resort staff attending.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Williana the Hawksbill turtle (SCA0838)

A turtle decided to nest on Anse Boileau on the 7th October. She was spotted by locals, who reported the sighting to the Police. They called the Green Line, who in turn contacted Elke, who was just finishing off the last beach patrol of the day.

Arriving on site some 10 minutes after receiving the call, Elke confirmed that the turtle was not being disturbed by the 10-15 people watching her under police supervision. Indeed, the turtle was happily laying a batch of eggs by the road side as buses roared past.

Williana was completely unfazed by the buses rushing past her, photo Elke Talma

While giving an impromptu turtle talk in Creole (..and really bad French for 2 tourist in the crowd), Elke roped Wilbert Elizabeth, a local, into being an MCSS photographer for the afternoon. While Elke measured and tagged, Wilfred happily clicked away on Elke’s camera, documenting his first encounter with a nesting turtle. Elke then took over for some photo-ID shots for Claire, from Kelonia.

Elke placing tag SCA0838 on Williana’s left flipper while the turtle laid her eggs , photo Wilbert Elizabeth

Once the turtle had entered the water, everyone gathered discussed whether the eggs should be moved. The location was good in terms of shade cover and distance from the high tide line, but the worry was that the nest would be dug up locals or dogs. Eventually it was agreed that the Wildlife Club of Anse Boileau would monitor the nest.

Elke returned the following day with a turtle nest marker and some laminated Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct sheets which were nailed onto nearby trees. She then surprised Wilfred by naming the turtle, Williana after his new born daughter.

Less than a minute after placing the signs, local residents were stopping to read them, photo Elke Talma

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Turtle talk revamped!

Every year, in preparation for the nestings season, Elke spends most of September carrying out training with hotel staff from the various Resorts’ that MCSS works with. The training has two parts: one general presentation for all interested staff to raise awareness about turtles and another targeted at the turtle officers, refreshing their knowledge on monitoring methods used in Seychelles.
Elke hoping to inspire staff from Banyan Tree to help with the turtle conservation effort, Photo Caterina Schlott.

Every year, without fail somebody will fall asleep during the training session, which means that each year, Elke spends at least a week beforehand trying to spice up the hour long powerpoint presentation. This year, having attended the Turtle workshop during the WIOMSA symposium, Elke was well prepared to wow her audience.

A short video from Hatchling Productions in Australia was incorporated into the Turtle Awareness Talks, which meant that a number of slides had to be ruthlessly removed. Elke also introduced Tiny the Turtle to aid in explaining the MCSS Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct through role playing.

Tiny the turtle was a big hit, photo Elke Talma

As for the Turtle Monitoring Training, well, Elke got hold of a carapace from Ministry of Environment to help show how a nesting turtle should be approached and measured (again role playing!) – it was disconcerting to find that, as witnessed in Reunion, people were not consistent in their method of measuring, despite the annual refresher training.

Carapace sponsored by MENRT helps reinforce the correct measuring protocol used by the MCSS Turtle Team, photo Elke Talma

As for wowing her audience, at least one person fell asleep during each of the 11 presentations this September......

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another Turtle Season is upon us.

Patricia and Marcel, MCSS Volunteer Turtle Conservation Officers for South East Mahe.

We Volunteer Conservation Officers did our Turtle Training this past week. Now, that does not mean literally Training Turtles, but rather training the volunteers who will for another season walk the beaches in search of nesting turtles, stay with the turtle until she safely returns to the sea, and then make sure to get the gathered information onto the dreaded data sheets.

The season has had a slow start, but we have noted the emergence of turtles at both Anse Marie Louise and Petite Marie Louise. It is Petite Marie Louise that has caused us some concern. During the recent past, human activity such as the collection of coconuts has created a physical barrier of coconut husks and fronds to build up near the high water mark. This means that the turtles cannot dig their nests in the bushes and usually end up doing a U-turn back to sea. So while we were there on our routine patrol, we spent some time clearing and cleaning the beach crest of assorted rubbish, some left by the tides and some by the coconut pickers.

Anse Petite Marie Louise, photo Marcel Mathiot.

The weather could have been kinder, the wind was keen and the rain came in fits and starts. We hoped to see a turtle, but by 9am the only emergence was a small group of people from behind the beachside vegetation. They were a mixed group of locals and tourists who were also hoping to see a turtle. After a brief chat, they continued their trek to Anse Capuchin.

We stopped for a breakfast of Marmalade Sandwiches and fresh Coconut water straight from the tree. At this time, I noticed a solitary seeker of octopus pass by. Identified by the long metal rod he carried, which is used to hook the octopus out from the nooks and crannies in the rocks, and his fins and bag, which were slung over his shoulder, he gave me a cheery wave. The sea was quite choppy and I wondered if he would be able to go into the water at all, but he did. Marcel told me not to worry as he was an expert at catching octopus and would be all right. A short while later several other solitary seekers of octopus passed by, but no cheery waves this time, and one wonders if they were really what they seemed to be.

Soon, we had to leave and during this patrol there was no sign of any turtles. In spite of that, and the wind and rain, we enjoyed our time at Petite Marie Louise. Here’s hoping for better luck next time. Certainly Mesdames Turtle will have an easier time nesting from now on.

News from Pat and Marcel