Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Christmas wish list

As Christmas approaches a spot of on-line browsing can reveal a wealth of turtle oriented gifts for that special lady, such as turtle rings:Turtle boxes:
Turtle pendants:
Turtle earrings and pins:
Turtle bracelets and figurines:

For turtle fanatics around the world who are looking for something special this Christmas, please visit John Didier in America for some cool custom turtle furniture:

If you prefer sculptures, then contact Tom Bowers from Seychelles:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What turtles really think!

Ever wondered what goes through a turtle's mind?

All photos Elke Talma

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2008 Turtle Awareness Training for Banyan Tree Resort’s staff.

MCSS would like to thank all Banyan Tree staff who attended the 2008 Turtle Awareness Training. Weekly presentations by Elke Talma, MCSS Research Officer, were organised over the course of 3 months with the aim of attaining 100% staff awareness. Unfortunately due to high guest occupancy over the course of this period, the proposed target could not be met …but that just means there is room for improvement in 2009.

Each participant in the 2008 Turtle Awareness Training received a certificate designed by Elke.

2008 Turtle Awareness Training certificate, photo Elke Talma

In addition to turtle awareness, 4 staff members were given refresher training in Turtle Monitoring Techniques. They were Adam Abdulla, Danny Bibi, Christopher Belle. Paul Isaac was also asked to join the Banyan Tree Turtle Team, as he had been providing valuable information about turtle encounters during the 2007-08 Nesting Season.

2007-08 Turtle Officer from Banyan Tree: Adam Abdulla (right), Christopher Belle (centre) and Danny Bibi (left), photo Elke Talma

While not employed with Banyan Tree Resort, Marcel Mathiot was also able to join in the refresher training.

Turtle training with staff from Constance Lemuria Resort.

MCSS would like to thank all Constance Lemuria Resort staff who attended the 2008 Turtle Awareness Training organised by MCSS in September 2008. While the power-point presentation generally lasts only an hour, MCSS Research Officer, Elke Talma, spent 3 hours talking about turtles as staff were very keen to learn more and even had some turtle stories of their own to share.

The Turtle Awareness Training was followed by another 3 hour session in Turtle Monitoring Techniques in preparation for the 2008-09 Hawksbill Nesting Season. This session was attended by Robert Matombe, Adrian Allison and Marvin Jolicoeur who introduced themselves in a blog posted in September.

Robert is the Turtle Manager at Constance Lemuria Resort and has been monitoring since 2007. With one year of turtle experience he is now authorised to tag turtles. While he was given theory training with Elke in September 2008, Robert had actually tagged a turtle early in 2008 following an impromptu turtle encounter while Dr Jeanne Mortimer, turtle consultant, was on site.

2008 Turtle Monitoring Techniques Training certificate, photo Elke Talma.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A happy distraction on a dark night

Our hawksbill turtle nesting season is just getting underway and it is most unusual to have Green turtles nest on the beach that we patrol, so it was with great excitement we received the news that a large turtle had come up on the beach during the midnight hours of 28th August. She had dug several body pits but there was no conclusive evidence that she had laid. We were pleased to note that she had returned to the sea without hindrance.

Green turtle tracks, photo Elke Talma

Although no one had seen her, and her tracks had been washed clean by the high tide, we were all convinced that it had to have been a Green turtle.

Some 58 days later we received a phone call from friends who were working under bright lights late that evening on their boat. They had lots of baby green turtles crawling everywhere and very few were going towards the sea!

Marcel hurried down to the beach and soon all the confused little hatchlings had been gathered up and the lights doused. Marcel walked into the sea, shining his torch upon the water ahead of him. As the little hatchlings were released, they crawled down the beach, following Marcel and his torch into the sea. Swimming strongly after the torches gentle light, they soon disappeared off in the horizon.

Held back for their fifteen minutes of fame, photo Patricia Mathiot

As we could not use flash photography for fear of damaging the hatchlings eyes, three were retained overnight to be photographed in the good morning light before being released. To help them further on their journey, Marcel took them on a boat ride and release them several kilometres offshore, to give them a better chance of catching up to their siblings.

… News from Patricia.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

“Lucky Lady” - the turtle that got away

My recent post told of a turtle swallowed by a tiger shark. These photos are of our first nesting Hawksbill turtle of the season, the one that got away!

She is a full grown 91 cm long lady with a beautiful coloured carapace and she must have fought hard to survive the shark attack that gave her these horrendous scars.

Lucky lady - the turtle that got away, photo Marcel Mathiot

She must be fairly stubborn too, as she has chosen to nest in the most difficult place - full of roots and debris. Never the less, she persevered and successfully laid a clutch of eggs.

Not the best spot to dig, but she made it, photo Marcel Mathiot

She bore evidence of old tag scars and before she returned to the sea she was newly tagged on both front flippers by Gilberte Gendron from Ministry of Environment (see blog on poaching at grand police) who happened to be driving past at the time.

14 days later to the hour, this same turtle returned to nest on the very same beach just about a 100 meters north of her previous nest. This was confirmed by tag numbers and photographic evidence.

…. News from Patricia

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Turtles behaving naturally!

Nesting Hawksbill turtle, photo Elke Talma

People always get excited when you tell them you have seen a nesting turtle, but few seem to realise what a long and laborious process the poor turtle has to endure to make sure her eggs are safely buried on the beach. A successful nesting emergence can last anything from 1 hour to 3 hours, and in some cases for as long as 5 hours if a tenacious turtle is having trouble finding the perfect spot for her eggs.

Below is a brief description of what a turtle goes through to ensure the next generation of turtles.

Hawksbill turtle emerging from the sea, photo Elke Talma

Emergence: a female turtle will check the beach from the water before slowly emerging from the sea. She crawls slowly up the beach towards the vegetation, stopping repeatedly and looking for signs of danger.

IMPORTANT: If disturbed by movement or noise, she will return to the water, so FREEZE! Do not move until you are out of her line of sight.

Hawksbill turtle digging a body pit, photo Elke Talma

Digging the body pit: once she is within or near the vegetation line, and well above the high tide mark, the turtle will use her front flippers simultaneously to clear away any debris and loose sand. She may also use her hind flippers in sideways movements for clearing.

IMPORTANT: If disturbed by movement or noise, she will return to the water, so do NOT approach.

Hawksbill turtle digging an egg chamber, photo Elke Talma

Digging the egg chamber: using her rear flippers only, she will dig a hole approximately 30 to 50cm deep. She does this by alternately scooping sand out of the hole and throwing it aside. If she encounters roots, rocks or hard ground she may move to another site to dig again.

Once she can no longer reach loose sand in the hole, she will place both flippers on either side of the hole and take a short rest.

IMPORTANT: If disturbed by movement or noise, she will return to the water, so do NOT approach.

Hawksbill turtle laying a clutch of eggs, photo Ellen Waldrop

Laying: she positions her tail over the hole and starts depositing eggs in the egg chamber. She will lay 100 to 200 eggs in total in batches of 1 to 5 eggs at a time, tensing her body each time she drops her eggs.

During laying, she appears to go in a trance.

IMPORTANT: Wait a few minutes for her to settle in a rhythm. The turtle can be approached with caution, but approach from behind if possible, do NOT make noise and move slowly.

Hawksbill turtle covering the egg chamber, photo Elke Talma

Covering the egg chamber: after laying, the turtle uses her hind flippers to cover her eggs with sand. She will use her tail to gauge her progress. Once she touches sand, still using her rear flippers, she will then press down on top of the filled egg chamber, compacting the sand. This ensures that the egg chamber does not collapse when the hatchlings emerge in 2 months time , thus leaving an air space for them as they crawl through the sand to reach the surface.

IMPORTANT: The turtle can be approached with caution, but approach from behind if possible, do NOT make noise and move slowly.

Hawksbill turtle camouflaging her nest, photo Elke Talma

Camouflaging: once she has covered the egg chamber, the turtle starts to camouflage the nest area. She will throw loose sand over the nest site with her front flippers and may use her rear flippers to push sand over the nest area and move forward or backward to hide the location of the egg chamber.

IMPORTANT: While the turtle can be approached with caution, its recommend that you keep your distance… unless you want a face full of sand!

Hawksbill exiting the nesting beach, photo Elke Talma

Exit beach: once camouflaging is complete, the turtle will turn around to face the sea. She will rapidly crawl, down the beach, usually in a straight line, until she reaches the water.

If she is tired or unstressed by the nesting process, she may stop every now and again to rest, giving you the perfect opportunity for a photo.

If she is stressed and feels threatened, she is not stopping for hell or high water!

IMPORTANT: do not block her passage back to the sea, or she may not come back this beach to nest again!

In about 2 weeks time she should come back to the same beach to repeat the whole process again. In a season, a Hawksbill turtle will lay 4 to 5 clutches of eggs before returning to her feeding grounds.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWOT)

MCSS has recently submitted Turtle nesting data gathered over the course of the 2004-05 and 2005-06 Hawksbill Nesting Season to the State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWoT) initiative. This data was gathered under the ongoing South Mahé Nesting Turtle Monitoring Programme funded by Banyan Tree Resort’s Green Imperative Fund.

The MCSS data was combined with that of various monitoring programmes around the world to create a global map of Hawksbill nesting sites. This map demonstrates the number of nests recorded or estimated at every available nesting site in the 2006 or 2005–2006 season.

SWOT report III featuring the first global map of Hawksbill nesting sites, including data contributed by MCSS, photo:

The SWoT initiative aims to generate greater synergy between Turtle programmes around the world while taking full advantage of the facilities and tools that have developed for Turtle Researchers over the past quarter century. Facilities such as; the Annual Sea Turtle Symposium, the Marine Turtle Newsletter, the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, the website and the Journal on Chelonian Conservation Biology which provide valuable information and resources for a far-flung band of researchers, conservationists, and turtle enthusiasts from around the world. The aim of the SWOT report is to focus the outputs of these valuable resources into a global status report to promote the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats.