Friday, March 20, 2009

Turtle nest rescued impending erosion.

This season there have been depressingly few nesting emergences on Intendance beach compared to previous season. Added to that, 2 nests were washed away following bad weather in December and another 3 showed very low hatching success. In one case, only 20 hatchlings emerged from a nest containing 212 eggs.

Intendance beach in the South of Mahe, photo Elke Talma
Concerned over the remaining nests, MCSS and the Banyan Tree Turtle Team have been closely monitoring the remaining nests. One nest in particular was of concern, as every day high tides and rough seas were slowly eroding the sand near the nest.

With the eggs due to hatch any day now, Elke and Adam decided to relocate the eggs to give the hatchlings a fighting chance. A total of 115 eggs were collect from nest No.26, 10 of which were more like chicken eggs than the usual ping-pong shaped turtle eggs.

Weird shaped turtle eggs (right), photo Elke Talma

The eggs have been moved to a safe location with Adam checking them on a daily basis until they hatch. We will keep you posted.

Adam and his soon to be offspring’s, photo Elke Talma

15 more minutes of Fame

MCSS Research Officer, Elke Talma, was recently interviewed by a local film crew from the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation of Seychelles (SBC) for a monthly documentary called “karne lanatire”, or Environmental Corner.

The documentary which will be broadcasted in April will feature the MCSS Turtle Programme and various other programmes in Seychelles, with special emphasis being placed on turtle conservation as there has been a significant increase in the number of documented poaching during the 2008-09 Nesting Season .

Elke being interviewed near a newly hatched nest on Intendance beach, photo Marike Koopman.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Japanese conservationists to develop artificial limbs for turtle

Japanese conservationists trying to develop artificial limbs for turtle injured during a shark attack. An injured loggerhead sea turtle may be getting a new lease on life after being rescued off south western Japan, following a suspected shark attack last summer. The 20 year old female turtle, named Yu-chan, was placed in an aquarium at the Hiwasa Chelonian Museum in Minami, western Tokushima, and is soon to be fitted with prosthetic front limbs.

Yu-chan, a loggerhead sea turtle missing half of its left forelimb and one-third of its right forelimb after a shark attack. Photo Kyodo

According to Erika Akai, a researcher at the non-profit Sea Turtle Association of Japan, “special attention will be paid to ensure that the forelimbs are strong enough to allow Yu to climb up a nesting beach, thus allowing her to lay eggs”. Akai, studied behaviour of dolphins fitted with artificial tail fins in Okinawa and hopes that the same can be done for Yu.

At the moment, “Yu’s swimming capability is only at 60% of that of a healthy turtle”, says Akai “and cannot be released into the wild”. The Sea Turtle Association of Japan has set up a fund and asked Japan's largest prosthetic limb maker in western Osaka prefecture to make the artificial fins.

A spokesperson for the company, Kawamura Gishi Co. says “We are fully aware that it will be a difficult challenge, but we were moved by the passion of the association and decided to take part in the project."

In May 2009, if all goes to plan, Yu will be moved from the town of Minami to a man-made saltwater pond on reclaimed land in Kobe to test her new flippers.

There is no known successful case of artificial limbs being attached to sea turtles, which have fragile bones and use their limbs differently in water and on land but with advice from veterinarians and taking advantage of the companies experience making artificial legs for dogs, there is hope that Yu can be released into the wild.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another week in the life of a turtle conservation officer from Patricia...

Many of you reading this will have seen the local SBC news report of turtle poaching on our beautiful beaches here in Seychelles. I fear that these 2 incidents are sadly only the tip of the iceberg.

As previously posted we have stepped up our patrols, firmly believing that a physical presence on the beaches will actually deter poachers. This was proved to be so, as on Tuesday of this past week we were unable to do the beach patrols and guess what?? It was on that very day a turtle or turtles were slaughtered on one of our small beaches. We discovered the evidence on our regular patrol the following afternoon. The killing site was above the high water mark and was already beginning to smell pretty bad.

Turtle nesting site frequented by tourist and poachers alike, photo Marcel Mathiot

Once again with heavy heart we phoned Elke and the Ministry of Environment was notified. This beautiful little beach is along the route of a rugged ramble much favoured by those tourists interested in the environment and conservation. During that week several groups of tourists visited it including a party from the Alamanda Resort. Sadly the stench of dead turtle pervaded the air until the weekend.
Plastron from dead turtle washed ashore, photo Marcel Mathiot

On the Saturday a turtle Plastron from a recently killed turtle was thrown up on to the beach by the receding tide and as we photographed it for the record, we became aware that we were being observed by a small group of tourists. It is sad to see that as the poachers get bolder; the tourists become more aware of the problem, their illusions of paradise shattered. This certainly is not good for our Eco Tourism image.

However all is not doom and gloom. There are many of us who strive to make the beaches safe for nesting turtles, from MCSS and Turtle Chick Elke, all the Volunteer Conservation Officers and other interested adults, to the children.

The neighbourhood children are a joy. They are quick to learn and keen to help, observant and an endless source of information. Of course all this may have something to do with the pocket full of ‘reward sweets’ that Marcel seems always to have, but I don’t think so. They just love the turtles and take the task of saving them very seriously.

Neighbourhood children learning about turtles, photo Elke Talma