Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wilna and Betty join Carol in making turtle history

In December 2007, MCSS deployed two fast-loc satellite relayed tags with funding from Barclays Banks, Seychelles. Two years later, David dropped off another two tags for Elke to play with! ...these were funded by the 2009 whale shark encounter trips.

Elke organised a 'camping trip' last week to the South of Mahé to find some turtles to put the tags on. The Banyan Tree Resort generously agreed to provide food and accommodation as Xanadu Private Resort, our previous accommodation on the beach, was having water issues.

MCSS sought assistance from previous partne
rs, namely the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) and the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles (WCS), for additional man-power …or rather woman-power as it turned out to be!

Luxury Banyan Tree Resort accommodation…unfortunately not quite what we got!

MENR unfortunately did not have any staff available for the
planned period but the WCS came to the rescue with group leaders, Wilna Figaro and Betty Cecile, volunteering to leave their families for a week to join Elke on the beach…they had no idea what they were in for!

From left to right: Wilna, Elke and Betty, photo David Rowat

The first day was a logistical nightmare! David, having just returned from the UAE had forgotten to defrost the tags and was still rubbing sleep out of his eyes when Elke, Wilna and Betty rocked up at his house at 7am while at Banyan Tree Resort, no one had left instructions with Security about our arrival.
By mid-day, all was on track again with Elke’s stress levels had reduced significantly!

Assuming her position from 2 years ago, on a large rock under a small coconut tree, Elke had a panoramic view of the beach to begin the long wait. Three turtles were spotted that day, a very good sign!
Panoramic view of the MCSS satellite tagging beach, photo Elke Talma

The first two turtles returned to sea without nesting after struggling on the rocks which form a barrier at low tide; the third made it to the nesting platform and began to lay shortly after 17:30pm. With sunset at 18:30, it was decided to let her be, as we did not want to be fooling around with epoxy glue and an unhappy turtle in the dark. DeeDee (SCA0860) finally made it to the sea at 18:23 giving the team just enough time to make it to dinner in the staff canteen.

DeeDee the turtle, heading off into the Sunset, photo Elke Talma.

After 10 hours on the beach on Tuesday, there was nothing to report on the beach or from the surrounding waters. David Deny, our man-Friday from 2007 and caretaker at the Xanadu Private Resort, predicted that we would not see a turtle until Friday!
In desperation, Elke expanded the search area to a second beach and at 16:50 got a call from an exited Wilna, that a turtle was emerging at Xanadu.

Dr. David Rowat was called from a cocktail with the British High Commission and despite the lateness, it was decided that we would tag her anyway under the glow of a battery powered tube light - an experience never to be repeated!!!!

Just enough light to get by, but never to be repeated, photo Betty Cecile

At 20:10 the 90.5cm hawksbill turtle
(SCA0862), now named Wilna after her finder, was released complete with her satellite tag firmly fixed after just 1hr and 30 minutes of being restrained by Elke and all. It was low tide by then, and the tired, scared and confused turtle wedged herself under a rock in a shallow rock-pool on the exposed reef some 10 metres from the sea.

Elke and David, rushed to her rescue, concerned for the turtle's safety but also for the Euro 5,000 tag! Finally, Wilna the turtle and her new accessory made it out to sea and an exhausted turtle tagging team realised that they had missed dinner in the Banyan Tree canteen!

Getting to bed at nearly midnight, Elke took an executive decision to sleep in the following day. After a leisurely breakfast, the team of ladies arrived on the beach at 07:45 only to find a turtle entering the nesting platform. Oh joy!! Elke was still recovering from her injuries after trying to restrain Wilna the turtle the previous night!

However, in daylight things were a lot less stressful making it easier to deal with this turtle (SCA0864),
now known as Betty ... it also helped that she was significantly smaller!

By the time Dr. David arrived on site, Betty the turtle had just started laying and David Deny was on hand to assist with logistics. Michelle Martin, also from the WCS, and her kids had been invited and were there to provide moral support for what was an anticipated long wait that day.

The two David's capturing Betty the turtle in the 'box' as she emerged from the nesting platform, photo Elke Talma.

Betty the turtle was also restrained for 1hr and 30 minutes while the tag was attached and with lots of additional hands, Elke could take a breather - funny how it took 6 people to hold the smaller turtle though!
The WCS ladies (from left to right Michelle, Wilna and Betty) and Betty the turtle, photo Elke Talma

After being released, Betty the turtle safely made it out to open water with a bit of guidance and maneuvering to get around the raised reef by Dr. David assisted by Noah, Michelle's son.

Dr. David pointing the way around the reef while Noah Jean-Louis assists in getting Betty the turtle back to sea, photo Betty Cecile

The new satellite tags are already transmitting and both turtles are alive and well; we will keep you posted on the progress of Wilna and Betty, the hawksbill turtles from Seychelles.

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)

Using images to help conserve endangered marine animals

Newspaper article from Seychelles Nation (30.11.2009)

Identifying individual animals over a period of time can provide information on population size, and individual survival amongst other things and as such is a key tool for conservation. But how do you identify animals that basically look alike?

The Marine Conservation Society, Seychelles (MCSS) in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and the Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory in Reunion, recently held two workshops funded by Mangroves for the Future for scientists and the public, explaining how photo-identification can be used on turtles and whale sharks.

Whale sharks are regularly visitors to Seychelles waters and in 1997 MCSS set up a long term monitoring programme to help learn more about these elusive creatures. Initially, sharks were identified with marker tags giving each tagged animal a unique and easily recognisable number. Later, however, a photo-identification technique developed for ragged-tooth sharks in South Africa that used the pattern of spots on the sides of the sharks was shown to be effective in identifying individual whale sharks also.

The area found to be most suitable, is the area behind the last gill slit on each side (see photo).
Photographs of this area, which include the top and bottom of the last gill slit and the edge of the pectoral fin, provide ‘landmark’ points that allow the image to be digitally ‘fingerprinted’. These fingerprints can then be used to rapidly identify the individual sharks using a special computer program (I3S).

The MCSS has built up a database containing over 13,000 images of whale sharks taken around Seychelles and from these they have identified 447 individual sharks over the last 10 years. Of these, 99 sharks have been resighted in multiple years, the longest span being for 4 sharks identified in 2001 and resighted this year. These images and their fingerprints are shared freely with other researchers in the Indian Ocean and also on the global whale shark database and are helping to unravel the mysteries surrounding the lives of this the world’s largest living shark.

The spot patterns on whale shark can be used to identify individual animals in a population, the box shows the critical area needed to get a usable fingerprint. Photo Luke Riley.

In turtle conservation throughout the world, most individual identification is by the use of marker tags and in these species, the easily accessible part of the population is nesting females who come ashore to lay their eggs and can thus be tagged on the beach.

In some places, such as the Aldabra Atoll World Heritage site in Seychelles, juveniles can also be caught on the reef flats for tagging and weighing. Mature adult males, however, are pretty much inaccessible not only because they occur in deeper waters, but also swim much faster and weigh significantly more, making it hard to catch them for weighing, measuring and tagging.

Given these limitations, a number of organisations around the world have looked at ways of using photographs, rather than marker tags, to identify individual turtles. Claire Jean, Project Officer at the Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory, in association with the Information Technologies department at the University of Reunion, have recently devised a method which uses the number, location and shape of scales from the left and right side of the turtle's head to identify individuals in a population.

Results from Green turtles photographed by divers around Reunion, Mayotte and Glorieuse islands have shown that individual animals can be reliable identified in their foraging grounds using this method.
To date, 60 Green turtles have been identified by researchers at Kelonia, with at least 14 individuals being re-sighted a few months later. Photographs of turtles in Seychelles, submitted by MCSS, have added an additional 36 Hawksbill turtles to this Indian Ocean database.

One of the many Hawksbill turtles photographed in Seychelles waters, the box shows the critical area needed to get a usable fingerprint. Photo David Rowat.

If you would like to assist with these programmes, please feel free to send us your photographs of whale sharks and turtles. Simply include: your name, the date and location of the photograph and the animal’s behaviour at the time (i.e. feeding, resting, swimming etc.) and we will include it in the rapidly growing database.

PO Box 1299,



Monday, December 14, 2009

Breaking records with GVI

Since her turtle talk with volunteers of Global Vision Internal (GVI), Elke has been taking GVI volunteers on beach patrols as part of the awareness raising campaign under the MCSS project on “Conservation of turtle rookeries on the developed island of Mahé through increased public awareness and community involvement.” funded by Mangroves for the Future.

To date, 18 volunteers have joined in beach patrols with a number a turtle records being broken.

Brendan Galloway proved that he was NOT an American Superpower after all, when a Hawksbill turtle showed him just how strong Seychellois girls could be! His buddy Vincent Vandergheynst filmed the whole thing! It took over 3 minutes for Brendan to restrain the turtle and in the end Elke only deployed one tag and had to forgo measuring, as she was feeling sorry for the poor turtle.

Proof that turtles are stronger than Americans, photo Vincent Vandergheynst.

Edvan Loh and Yvonne Phillips met the stupidest turtle of the season, who nested on Anse Forbans. She laid her 158 eggs in the open, mid-beach and near a busy road. Being clearly visible from the road, she drew quite a crowd which Elke kept at bay, armed with her recently laminated Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct.

Turtle tortures conservationist by nesting mid beach on a hot, humid day, photo Elke Talma.

Kevin Jackson and Jill Howell had the highest number of turtle tracks recorded to date during the 2009-10 Season, with 20 tracks in total being recorded on a single day.

And last but not least, after 5 years of monitoring Elke finally managed to get a shot of two turtles emerging at the same time! Curtis and Richard Horne were there to enjoy the experience and while they watched one turtle, Elke dealt with the other before coming over to tag their turtle.

In five years of monitoring, this is the 3rd time that Elke has seen two turtles on the same beach at the same time, photo Elke Talma.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Maritime School joins in turtle conservation effort

Year 1 students from the Advanced Fisheries class at the Maritime Training Centre joined Elke on the beach for a half day Clean-up activity. The field trip was organised by their Marine Organism lecturer, Vanessa Zialor, who being a local plankton taxonomy expert, has been assisting MCSS for a number of years with their whale shark monitoring programme.

Shareefa Cadeau instructing her class mates about the Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct from the MCSS “mobile class room”, photo Elke Talma.

After a short briefing about turtles, the team of 13 students, 2 Environment officials, Vanessa and Elke began collecting rubbish while hoping desperately to see a nesting turtle - none showed up!
They were, however, unexpectedly rewarded with some Hawksbill hatchlings, found while collecting rubbish in the bushes. The nest had hatched a few days ago, with hatchlings emerging from the sand the night before.

For reasons yet to be determined, most of the hatchlings headed inland, despite no obvious signs of light pollution on the deserted beach, with many being killed by a picky predator with a taste for turtle brains!

Grey matter, a tasty snack for some! photo Elke Talma.

Fifty seven dead hatchlings were collected from the bush and of the 28 live hatchlings found, only 22 made it safely to the sea, with the other 6 dying from their head injuries.

Rubbish collecting abandoned while MTC students enjoyed their first hatchling encounter, photo Vanessa Zialor.

A total of 100kg of rubbish was collected from the beach, making the beach just that little bit safer for hatchlings and their nesting mothers.

From left to right, Samia Meme, Shareefa Cadeau, Yannick Chang-Tive, Maritza Jeannie and Trevor Vidot proudly show off their bounty, photo Elke Talma.

After a hard morning on the beach, many complaining about the heat and lack of shade, the students settled on a neighbouring beach for a well deserved lunch in the shade.

Students taking a well deserved break, photo Elke Talma.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A parting gift for Claire, MCSS style!

Turtle hatchlings, a welcome surprise after a long walk, photo Elke Talma

MCSS would like to extend a well deserved “thank you” to Claire Jean of Kelonia for joining us in Seychelles and presenting her project on photo-Identification of turtles in two local workshops entitled “Using images to help conserve endangered marine animals”.

During her time in Seychelles, Claire spent a few days with Nature Seychelles, under the Seychelles/Reunion regional corporation agreement, showing the rangers of the Cousin Nature Reserve how to deploy nest temperature logger. While on Cousin, she saw more than 5 nesting turtles!

With the limited nesting population on the developed island of Mahe, due to over-exploitation, poaching and loss of nesting habitats, MCSS could not compete…or could we?

Not to be outdone, Elke invited Claire and some of her friends on a turtle patrol in the South of Mahe and managed to surprise them with some Hawksbill hatchlings - 198 in total and a first for Claire!

Claire with her first hawksbill hatchlings, photo Elke Talma

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turtle in a hurry

As a child I remember reading stories about wise old turtles, but wisdom is not an attribute that the turtle always displays! When nesting, a turtle is usually constantly on the lookout for danger and can be very picky about where she will lay her eggs. This was not the case last week for a turtle nesting at Petite Marie Louise.

Now this was not an inexperienced young Turtle, as she had some scratches and damage to her shell suggesting that she had been around a bit. She must have nested many times before, but on that day, she had barely reached the high water mark when she made her first attempt. The sand was of course too damp, and so the nest kept collapsing. She moved on, making two more attempts to nest, with the last attempt being made in the sandy soil, amongst the roots of nearby coconut trees.

Hawksbill turtle nesting amongst the coconut trees, photo Marcel Mathiot.

All the time, she appeared to be in great haste working hard to dig out her nest. The roots of the coconut tree impeded her progress somewhat, until in pity, Marcel reached under her from behind and, out of sight, helped by surreptitiously removing a few of the roots. Obviously she was not wise enough to know that less haste means more speed!

She dug a rather shallow egg chamber and then did not straddle it properly, dropping her eggs, not in the chamber, but on the nest wall where they piled up. Once again, Marcel reached under her and rolled the eggs to where they should have been. She seemed totally oblivious to Marcel’s presence but that was because he kept absolutely quiet and completely out of her line of vision. It also helped that turtles tend to go into a sort of trance and will remain so until they have finished laying.

Eggs piling up along the side, photo Marcel Mathiot.

Having laid her eggs, she spent considerable time covering them and flattening the sand down with her flippers, turning around and around not quite on the spot until satisfied that there was no indication of where the nest actually was. She spent a long time doing this, during which, a young man and his dog came onto the beach. He quickly put on flippers and entered the water, probably to look for octopus.

The dog, however, remained on the beach and although aware of the turtle, was apprehensive of Marcel and so kept its distance. After the turtle had returned safely to sea, Marcel, concerned that the eggs were rather shallowly buried, added more sand and tidied up the nesting site, then he too had to leave.

I wonder why this turtle was in such haste. Maybe she had been thwarted in her previous attempts to lay her eggs and just couldn’t wait any longer.

… News from Pat and Marcel.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Update on turtle activities at Petite Marie Louise

Marcel was quite pleased with his clean up of the beach at Petite Marie Louise, especially as this was followed with a successful turtle nesting. He has been patrolling Petite Marie Louise almost daily, so imagine his concern, when he was told that a turtle had been rescued from a pit above the high water mark there.

He remembered that a while ago someone had actually searched for treasure at Petite Marie Louise, leaving several large holes behind. These holes are well above the high water mark, too far you would think, for a turtle to reach. You’d be wrong!

Turtle struggling to find suitable nesting site in the dense coconut debris, photo Elke Talma

An enterprising turtle did find the hole, but sliding into the hole was obviously easier than climbing out. She probably spent the night there, for when found, she was dirty and exhausted according to the local fisherman who found her. It took some effort to pull her out of the hole and drag her back onto the beach, but she did get safely back to sea. Marcel spent the rest of that afternoon making the pit safe by erecting a barrier to prevent another turtle mishap.

Hole from ex-treasure hunting venture proved to be a trap for unsuspecting turtles, photo Marcel Mathiot

A few days later, he noticed that someone had obviously enjoyed the cleaner beach, in spite of the rain, as they had cut some palm fronds with which to build a shelter. These they left behind, stacked in a neat pile but creating a barrier once again which blocked off access to the turtle nesting places. Marcel removed the barrier!

This beautiful little beach gets a lot of attention for such an isolated spot. Sometimes it is not the right kind of attention. During a routine patrol once more the unexpected happened. While searching the beach for turtle tracks and finding none, conversation and all attention turned towards the pit at the top of the beach. The tale of the unfortunate turtle trapped in the pit was recounted and so the pit was inspected. At first glance there was nothing unusual to be seen and then sharp eyes and keen noses detected more than the presence of palm fronds.

Lying in the pit there were in fact, in excess of a dozen empty jerry cans. Their contents, diesel oil, had been poured away, possibly over the side of a passing fishing boat, and above the pit partly, hidden behind a young palm tree we found a small cache of Turtle and Dolphin meat, salted and ready to be collected by the prospective person or persons. Just as we were feeling good about this turtle season too!

Hawksbill turtle safely making her way into the sea, photo Marcel Mathiot

Sad as this was, there is still much to feel good about, for throughout the local community, there has been a lot more positive interest in the conservation of the turtle. We might be moving forward a tad slowly, but we are going forward and we will succeed.
… News from Pat and Marcel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Public presentation on photo-ID methods

The Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), in collaboration with the Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory in Reunion, Ministry of Environment and Alliance Francaise, are organising a public presentation on “Using images to help conserve endangered marine life”.

This presentation, which is being held at 17:00 on the 12th November at Alliance Francais, is being organised as one of the public awareness components from the project on “Conservation of turtle rookeries on the developed island of Mahé through increased public awareness and community involvement”, which is being funded by Mangroves for the Future.

........You are all welcome to join us!

Scientific presentation for marine scientists on photo-ID methods

The Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), in collaboration with the Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory in Reunion and Ministry of Environment, are organising a scientific presentation on “Using images to help conserve endangered marine life”.

This workshop, which is being held at 14:00 on the 12th November in the training room at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is being organised as one of the public awareness components from the project on “Conservation of turtle rookeries on the developed island of Mahé through increased public awareness and community involvement”, which is being funded by Mangroves For the Future.

Space is limited, so if you wish to attend, please contact Elke 261511/713500 or send us an email.

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......