Thursday, October 5, 2017

Beach cleaning and clearing of nesting sites

As usual, the Turtle monitoring team gives Mother Nature a helping hand with the nesting turtles being the main beneficiaries.
Special Forces Unit & MCSS team
This year we got the special help of a group of tough guys from the Special Forces Unit, though not present on site today, all of this was possible through the great organisation and corporation of Major Archil Mondon who put the team together.
As most of the nesting beaches are usually cleaned often by some cleaning agencies, though some r rubbish was still collected, the main focus was on the removal of natural debris like dried up vegetation to allow easy access through the vegetation especially for the nesting Hawksbill turtles.

Removal of natural debris
MCSS girls clearing vegetation
Usually the Hawksbill turtles start making an appearance during September but so far it is still very quiet and only one set of tracks was seen along with a nest on one of the nesting beaches.... nonetheless we're keeping our fingers crossed in hope of encountering our first nesting turtle for the season and though obviously the nesting season is starting a bit later than usual, we are hopeful that eventually we will have a productive season in general.

Selfie time ...Team MCSS

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hawksbill turtle nesting season 2017-2018

For the past nesting seasons, the females would usually start nesting during the early weeks of September before the season reaches its peak October to January...however up to date we haven't had any encounters nor an identification of tracks on the beach yet.

The big team monitoring the beach
However, we will not give up hope and the MCSS continues to monitor the beaches twice a week and gradually increase to three  times a week once the season is in full swing.
Most of our effort now is into beach cleaning and rubbish is collected whenever we go for the beach patrols.
Collecting rubbish on Anse Grand Police
As Hawksbill mostly prefer nesting in the vegetation line we will soon be having a beach clearing event to clear the nesting grounds for the turtles and get some exterior help to conduct this along with the big team of volunteer, interns and staff of MCSS. The intention is to simply remove natural debris like dry branches to allow the turtle to easily penetrate through the vegetation and thus increase the probability of successful nesting.
Anse Bazarca where clearing of nesting ground is needed
Hopefully we will come back with a more interesting blog soon with the announcement of the nesting season being officially open as we start having encounters and tracks on the now deserted beaches!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Currently I am half way through my second week working with MCSS. I heard about the project in UK throughs the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Climate and Energy. I am a student at the University of East Anglia studying International Development with a focus on natural resources. I understand that most people who take internships here at MCSS come from a biological background, however I am interested more broadly in the cross over between development and conservation. Through participating in conservation, I can better understand conservation management and the interface between conservation and community development.
Therefore, I chose to take an internship with the Temporal Protected Areas (TPA) project. The TPA project is trying to develop areas that can be enforced as a protected area during the turtle nesting season. This is providing the opportunity to see how real ‘cutting-edge’ conservation is being conducted in one of Earths most precious biodiversity ‘hotspots’ with its unique rates of endemism. This includes being one of the top 5 places in the world for the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle to nest. Poaching and coastal development is a big problem here, threatening the turtle populations,so protected areas hopes to allow them the space to reproduce safely. However, creating TPAs and managing them is also a complicated issue, of which has interesting solutions.
So far things have been going very smoothly, everyone here is super kind helping me stay busy and integrate me into the project. With the TPA project I spend most my time beach profiling and beach monitoring/patrolling. Although TPAs are not officially established on a legal basis, MCSS is operating as if many of the beaches here are TPAs already to help turtles and illustrate the benefits of protected areas. Such work includes collecting data to measure the rates of erosion on the beaches and monitoring beaches for anthropogenic obstacles that would obstruct the turtles nesting. At the moment, it is not turtle nesting season, yet it is important to still check for nests and how able they will be able to nest when they do arrive.Everyday I’m in the field on some of the most beautiful and wild beaches I’ve ever seen.
Beach profiling Anse Bazarca
Beach profiling Anse
In addition, I have begun working with the AnseForbans wetland restoration project. This has been really exciting as there’s loads to be done! This is the great thing about MCSS, when there is help needed, they allow you to integrate into other projects too. My main job with this is to start mapping out the whole wetland area including the rivers that feed and stem from the wetlands. This means I am having to battle with GIS software, but useful knowledge to have. We have just begun terrapin trapping also, something I have assisted with at Banyan tree, and also water sampling for pollutants. All of this is helping me see what needs to be collected in order to develop plans for restoration projects and to learn more intimately how ecosystems are all interconnected.

Hopefullythere is a chance to communicate more with local farmers/residents at AnseFrobans about the importance of wetlands, and how they will benefit from wetland restoration and how they can be part in the decision making over the restoration plans. But for now work is sweet and pleased to have several more weeks here on Mahe!



2016-2017 Seasonal Report

The 2016-2017 nesting season has come to an end and we have already entered into the 2017-2018 nesting season, although at the moment it is very quiet  with no  Hawksbill turtles nesting so far, except for a few Green turtle tracks found over a month ago on the main nesting beaches.

For the 2016-2017  season, we recorded 370 emergence on the 14 monitored beaches, along with 164 nests.
MCSS also had the chance to encounter 40 nesting turtles, which is always very interesting and we get to collect some data on them; carapace length and width, check for any injuries or abnormalities, check if they have a tag number and also get good pictures of the left and right side of the face for identification. The best task though is to try and do an egg count as they are laying...this can be very tricky as sometimes you can have 3 or 4 egg coming out at the same time..and this happens fast, so the final count is always an approximate count.

The MCSS team is now looking forward for the peak of the nesting season for 2017-2018, new volunteers and interns will be coming in and they will be keeping an update of all the highlights of the season.
Other than that, we will soon be celebrating the Sea Turtle Festival Seychelles and the team is ready to participate in the March and spread sea turtle awareness in the country.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Emiel's final blog


Hello everyone, it is Emiel again. The journey comes to an end.
 It has been an amazing experience and I learned a lot. The hawksbill turtle nesting season was just ending when we arrived so for our project we did not have a lot of work to do with nesting turtle as there weren't any!

Green turtle track from above using the drone
We (me and my buddy Tarek) went on beach patrolling every Wednesday, on all the 14 main nesting beaches, to see if there were any emergences and nesting of green turtles. Green turtles nest the year round. Every second week we found green turtle tracks and also some nests, mostly on Anse Grand Police and AnseBazarca. The last week, we even got to fly a good high-tech drone! We were testing if it would be a more efficient way of patrolling the beaches. It wasn’t at that moment, probably because we were still figuring out how we could do it in the best way, but regardless it was awesome.
The other days we helped out with the other projects. We helped out Inga with here terrapin trapping project, even taking over her project for a week when she was away. This was very cool as we had the chance to drive around the south of the island, to all the different wetlands. Some of them were in the forest, some of them in local farms or even in peoples’ backyard. Everyone was
always really friendly and interested in what we did, asking us questions and being enthusiastic when we caught a terrapin. We even got filmed by a crew of CNN, for a documentary.

On Tuesday and Thursday, we usually did bird monitoring. I really liked this one. We had a few transect across the Banyan Tree wetland where we would then count all the birds we found on our path. This was a great opportunity to learn about all the different birds in the wetlands in on Mahé. In the end, we saw all the birds there were to see in the wetlands and from some of them even their nests and juveniles. 
Luckily, after three weeks, we did not have to do the water hyacinth clearing anymore. It was not the most fun job in the world and on top of that it did not really feel helpful. They were growing way to fast! The resort finally realized they had to do something about it and hired an external contractor to
Last and not least, everyones’ favorite, the beach profiling. To do a beach profiling, you have certain fixed points along the beach, on the most inland side of the beach. At low tide, you define the angle/inclination of the beach and the distance towards the sea. You repeat that for each time the angle changes, until you get to the water. You repeat all this for all the points on the beach. We did this for 6 nesting beaches (Anse Intendance, Anse Grand Police, Anse Petit Police, AnseBazarca, AnseCorail and AnseCachee). This way if you do it each month over a long period of time, you can see how the beaches evolve over time. Do they rise because they get more sand deposit from the sea or do they erode? Interesting job but time consuming and exhausting as you spent the whole day in the sun.
All in all, it was an amazing experience with a lot of amazing people to work with! I really enjoyed my stay but sadly, now it’s time to go back home to Belgium. I would like to thank everyone I worked with for the great time I had here. Thank you Vanessa, Alessia, Rebecca, Tarek, Elena, Luana and Inga.
A shot I took with the drone!

Tarek's final blog

It´s time to say good bye....

After 9 weeks of volunteering with MCSS this amazing experience is coming to an end and I have to go back home to Germany. During the last weeks, I learned a lot about sea turtles and their nesting behaviour (hawksbill and green turtles) as well as about their small relatives the freshwater terrapins. Especially in the last weeks we were lucky to find some new green turtle nests in AnseBazarca and Grand Police. It is really impressing to see how much effort a mother turtle takes to protect her offspring, digging multiple holes to camouflage the actual nest. Of course, as soon as the mother is done with laying up to 200 eggs in the nest (multiple times per nesting season)her job is done and she probably won´t see her offspring again.
Green turtle track on Grand Police
Also, the hatchlings have a hard time to survive their first days, digging out of the nest, escaping the crabs, and finally surviving the dangers of the open ocean. Sadly, not all of them even make it to the ocean.
Dead Hawksbill hatchling on Anse Cachee
Furthermore, I participated in several other projects like the AnseForbans terrapin monitoring project, the bird monitoring project in the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort and the clearing of invasive water plants in the wetlands.
Black mud terrapin caught in AnseForbans, marked for identification if recaptured
I really enjoyed the time volunteering with MCSS and because of the possibility to participate in different project I could archive many new and diverse skills. I am very happy for meeting all the people working for MCSS and for spending time with the other volunteers hiking, diving and of course working.
Thanks everyone for the great experience,

Tarek 


 Night Heron in wetlands of the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort

Monday, April 24, 2017

Introducing the interns........


Arrival of the Rookies...........

Hello everyone, the first rookie is here!My name is Emiel, I am a Belgian master student of the EMBC+ program (International Master in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation) and I am doing my two-month internship here in the Seychelles with MCSS.
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane, even before being able to admire the beauty of the island, was the crushing heat. As a real Belgian I am used to the cold and wet climate of Northern Europe and I thought the warm tropical climate of the Seychelles would be a welcome change… It really was after a few days, but I spend my first day on the island looking for shade and water.  Even when I went for a swim I found the water to be too warm to be refreshing and when I noticed I had no air conditioner yet in my room I was sure I was going to die that night.
Luckily, I did wake up the next day because it was a great day, just as all the days that followed after that! I was greeted warmly (so much warmth everywhere!) by all the staff, they are amazing people, and by the fresh AC in the office (heaven on earth!). After settling in I was immediately invited to dig up a nest that hatched the day before. It was the last nest on the beach, lucky me! We dug up the nest and found still a few baby turtles stuck while crawling out of the nest. After counting the eggs, we released them in the sea.The next day, my rookie buddy Tarek Bakkar arrived at the center. We spend the day monitoring beaches to look for turtle tracks and potential nests. These are only for the Green Turtle though as they nest year-round and the nesting season of the Hawksbill Turtle is over. Because of this there is not a lot of work for the turtle monitoring program so we help wherever we can with the other projects. Thursday, we cleared as much of the invasive Water Hyacinth as we could get out of an important Terrapin pond and set out some traps in some wetlands for Terrapin monitoring. Friday, we went to an extremely interesting symposium about Coral Reef resilience and rehabilitation with free food and drinks (that is always the best part). Overall, we had a very cool and  very instructive week and we are excited what the next 2 months will bring!


Emiel & Tarek deciding between the wetland & the sea!
Hey guys, my name is Tarek Bakkar and I am a Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Student (EMBC) from Germany doing an internship at MCSS for the next two month. I am participating in the turtle monitoring team. On my first day, we patrolled several beaches in the south of Mahé. Most beaches were very quiet in terms of anthropogenic disturbances as well as turtle tracks. Nevertheless, we found one Green Turtle track on the Grand Police Beach. Next to the vegetation we could find traces of sand disturbance but the female turtle did not seem to be happy with the location and went back to the ocean without laying any eggs.

My adventure just started and I am looking forward to the next month making new experience, see hopefully a lot of turtles and other wild life. I will keep you updated!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Turtle Nesting Season Update

Hi all..... it's been a while since our last blog.... Volunteers are out of sight....Turtles are out of sight & all is quite!

For this nesting season we have observed and recorded 394 turtle emergence and 176 nests....still a good number but definitely lower compared to the last nesting season.

We encountered our last turtle on the 13th of March... which is usually a bit late to have encounters but still always a delight to see the beautiful females nesting..... actually this particular female was encountered for the first time on January 13th on the same beach.
Shooting some last shots of the turtle
Heading back safely to sea

Fresh turtle track
With regards to poaching incidents...there is a significant decrease in the number of poached turtles recorded....and sadly number 3 was recorded over 3 weeks ago. While patrolling Anse Bazarca...to my excitement I noticed the fresh turtle track on the beach and followed it up with caution.... I saw egg chamber 1 abandoned..... egg chamber 2 almost done...but.... the turtle seemed to have vanished into thin air!..... 

We searched everywhere in the bushes and no sign of a down track! The only apparent track were footprints and car Tyre marks close to where the turtle was..... after all the denials in my head and searching crazy for the turtle...I finally came to the obvious conclusion that the turtle had been poached!..... a beautiful up-track on the beach was all I had left from the beautiful Hawksbill turtle who had fallen victim to men's cruelty...

Abandoned egg chamber due to human interference
Anyway...April is here and soon we are expecting new students coming to join us for their internship with MCSS..... so stay tuned for some more updates from the rookies!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An amazing birds monitoring

Tuesday and Thursday are birds monitoring days.

There are a number of transects and set points through the Intendance wetland which need to be walked to count the species and number of birds.

Today, we have been very lucky to see three little moorhen chicks, not older than one month.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is a common wetland bird. They are native in Seychelles. You can find a lot of different kinds of

Moorhen in Asia, Africa and Europe.


Most of the times, each bird stays alone but during the nesting season the birds stay in couples to take care of their chicks. The female can lay 2 or 3 times per season, around 5 to 8 eggs. Often, they build their nest on the emerged vegetation or on the ground. When the chicks hatch, the parents both take care of their babies for one month. We could observe them walking on water lily leaves, feeding their babies.

Come to visit our Conservation center at the Banyan Tree and learn more about our wonderful birds!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Inka's adventure with MCSS comes to an end....

One month, two turtle encounters, and hundreds of hatchlings later, my volunteering time with MCSS has sadly come to an end. But what an amazing experience this has been! For my first turtle encounter I arrived just in time to see her lay the last of her 212 eggs. I’ve always had a lot of respect for animals and what they are capable of, but when you witness the effort these turtles have to go through to make their way up the beach, dig a nest, lay around 100-200 eggs, cover the nest and camouflage the area before returning to the ocean (and repeat this 2-3 times during one nesting season), your respect for them just grows immensely.


The same goes for the little ones, digging their way through the sand, walking along the beach surrounded by crabs ready to attack, and entering the wide ocean where more threats await. It is fascinating to watch them intuitively move towards the sea, how they speed up the closer they get, and how they conquer every footprint in the sand or rock.
During one of our hatchling rescues however, we found them stuck in a water hole and underneath one of the hotel villas. When turtles hatch during the night, they move towards the reflection of the moonlight on the ocean. However, when bright hotel lights are on, they can become disoriented and end up lost. One way to prevent this is to use red bulbs instead as the turtles cannot see this wavelength. This has been implemented by various hotels and hopefully the Banyan Tree Resort will follow suit. Once the hatchlings had been rescued, we placed them on the sand a couple of meters away from the ocean because this is important both for their personal development and so they can find their way back to the beach years later
 

On the same day as this rescue operation we noticed a Hawksbill turtle nesting on the beach. Since her nest was very close to the high tide line, we waited for her to finish and then relocated the egg clutch to prevent the nest from being flooded. This is a delicate process as the eggs should not be rotated and the nest conditions (including the order in which the eggs were laid) should be kept as similar as possible. A very interesting experience, both for us and the tourists on the beach.
There were also two special events during my time here. One was the National Protected Areas Day where conservation societies in the Seychelles come together to present their work to each other and the public. It was very interesting to learn about the different conservation efforts made across the islands and to meet such a large number of people involved, including Jeanne Mortimer. She has spent over 40 years studying turtles across the world, moved to the Seychelles in 1981 where she has contributed to local turtle protection as well as international research, and was awarded a “Lifelong Achievement Award” from the International Sea Turtle Society in 2016. It is mainly thanks to her efforts that the government and locals have changed their mindset, and the killing of turtles (common for their meat) has become illegal, resulting in high fines and prison charges. It was inspiring to meet someone with so much passion and dedication to turtle/nature conservation. The second event was World Wetland Day, for which we organized a tour around the beautiful Intendance wetland for guests staying at the Banyan Tree Resort. It is always nice to teach others about the work performed by MCSS and perhaps to inspire them to help preserve nature and care for animals.

My stay on Mahe Island has been amazing and I will definitely miss the turtles, people, stunning white sandy beaches and turquoise water. But now it is time to embark on a new adventure: volunteering with rhino conservation in Uganda!













Thursday, January 19, 2017

Salome's experience so far...

Hi, my name is Salomé. I come from France. I'm 28 years old.
I'm a student in last year of biology bachelor. I'm doing an internship with MCSS for about 5 months.
I’m working on marine turtle project.  It's my first experience with the turtles and in Seychelles as well.
I always wanted work for the protection of wildlife, I took my time, and now I will do what I always wanted.

Restraining turtle for data collection
I will start with my first encounter with a hawksbill turtle. It was my first day, lucky girl! I was completely lost. You have to know that my English is very bad. So, I didn't understand anything that I heard. Suddenly, I just understood "turtle here”. Vanessa had received a call from the field assistants on the beach. We have a turtle there! Quickly, we took our materials and went to the beach. ….my internship had officially started!

It was an amazing day; she was so beautiful, incredible to see this turtle.  We went on patrols three days per week on the six main beaches in the south of Mahé. It was a good way to discover new beaches and some places where there is no one except you, the sea and the turtle! We saw lots of tracks, few turtles and we identified the new nests.
During the peaks of the season, I encountered six hawksbill turtles; I saw three of them laying the eggs.
Hawksbill turtle laying
When the turtle starts to lay you can make the measures and check if she's injured or if she's ok, as she is in a trance and once she has started laying the eggs she will not stop, so it is the perfect time to approach her for data collection. She lay between 100 and 200 eggs, sometimes one by one, sometimes three by three. When finished she covers the nest with the sand carefully. Her flippers are like a hand. Then camouflage her nest splashing sand everywhere….have to be careful during this step ….back off or you will easily be sand splashed :)
Up or down...?
The Rock climber!
As you know, they are critically endangered species, that's why we have to be careful with ecological impact. They need us.

When the laying season goes off peak, we are then busy checking the hatching of the nests. If you are lucky, you can see little hatchlings…


Rescuing disorientated hatclings