MCSS carry out Turtle Monitoring patrols on selected beaches in the South of Mahé which involves walking the full length of the beach at the vegetation line to check for any turtles or turtle tracks. We carry out turtle monitoring patrols throughout the year and increase the patrols to three times a week during the peak nesting season (October to January) for Critically Endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).
The purpose of the turtle monitoring patrol is to collect data in order for us to increase our knowledge of turtle populations to help protect them further. An additional benefit of our turtle monitoring patrols is that our presence on beaches can deter poachers.
Yesterday, during the usual turtle monitoring patrol, Uzice and Cathrina came across something wrong on Anse Bazarca. There was a hawksbill turtle track going up the beach but not going down. Instead there was a pseudo turtle track, suggesting the cunning poachers knew that the beach would be later patrolled. Our experienced staff spotted the imitation track straight away, most likely made by the attempting poachers.
The real up track on the left and the phoney down-track on the right...
This led Uzice to check the vegetation thoroughly and fortunately, found the hawksbill turtle lying on its back. A turtle on its back is unable to right itself and is the traditional way of immobilising a turtle to collect later (to turn turtle?), presumably in this case, when less people are around.
The turned-turtle, on its back stranded until the poachers returned, or someone rescued her!
Thankfully, we were there to rescue the turtle and Uzice carefully returned the turtle the right way up so that she could make her way back to the sea. Cathrina and Uzice made sure they watched the turtle safely returned to the sea.
Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered and granted full protection under the Wild Animals (Turtles) Protection Act (1994). However, they are still being poached in the main for their meat. This is surprising as the hawksbill meat can be poisonous!
Right-way up and heading back to the beach, sea and safety!
The sad fact is that nesting turtles appear to be a target and usually poached prior to being able to lay. Hawksbill turtles can take from 25 to 30 years to mature and can lay between three and five egg clutches with an inter-breeding interval of a minimum of two years. Therefore, poaching nesting turtles are having greater impacts on the turtle population.
Safely on her way back to sea...
All at MCSS are extremely happy that we have prevented this attempted poaching from being successful and we have helped one more turtle back to sea.