Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Turtle Bonanza!

My name is Caroline Baille, I am 21 and I am from France. I am on a master degree of agronomy. I will specialize in marine sciences later on, that’s why, for my internship this year, I wanted to work on protecting marine life, especially on animals like sharks or turtles. I sent a request to MCSS who accepted me on the Turtle Monitoring Program.

I arrived in Seychelles the 3rd of November 2010 and I am here for 3 months. In only 2 weeks, I discovered many things about turtles and about their conservation in Seychelles.

Caroline measuring a nesting hawksbill turtle, photo Devis Monthy

During the day, walking on the beaches looking for turtles tracks is really amazing, especially when we have turtle encounters. After 10 days of turtle patrols, I finally met my first turtles! And it was a very special day because we encountered 5 turtles on the beaches! We observed them, took all the required measures (carapace length,…) or information (time, turtle specie, name of the beach,…) for the research program and finally tagged them before letting them go back to the sea. This is very surprising to see how these animals living in the sea are able to walk on the beach and dig such a deep egg chamber (50cm) with their fins only. This is one of the things that impresses me most about turtles.

The first of the five turtles, nesting on the inshore side of the road, photo Caroline Baille

Turtles are beautiful animals and I understood that their conservation is very important for the ecosystem and fishing activities: I really feel concerned about it and getting involved in this program as a volunteer is the best experience ever for me, I really enjoy it.

More about the five turtles from Project Coordinator Georgia:

We enountered five turtles, the first one was at the first beach we checked and was on the other side of the road to the beach and not easy to see! She had already dug two nests complete with nest chambers but abandoned them for unknown reasons so she must have been really tired.

While we waited with her, a team of landscape surveyors turned up with machetes and equipment which was worrying initially but they turned out to be really interested so we told them about the laws, basic turtle info and about how turtles are poisonous to eat and how they help the environment. They ended up helping to get her back to the sea after she got stuck in some vegetation which was really good of them.

Turtle number 1 heads for the sea after being freed for vegetation, photo Caroline Baille

The second turtle laid at the bottom of an erosion cliff within the tide line so we translocated the eggs, (151 eggs) to the top of the cliff.

The whole team helps dig-out and translocate the eggs from turtle 2; photo Devis Monthy

Turtle no. 3 was on some rocks and while we were making a plan of action she made a break for the sea and we lost her! On the next beach along however, we encountered a turtle just emerging from the sea so it could well have been our friend from the rocks (turtle 4). On the same beach there was also another turtle already nesting (turtle 5).

Devis tagged this one as well as turtle no. 2 and showed us how the equipment worked. I was supposed to tag turtle no. 4 once she finished laying but she already had tags. All turtles were hawksbills. No. 4 also got stuck under some roots and Devis and Mariska helped to free her. Turtle ID photos were taken for all but turtle 3 which made a very speedy escape indeed!

Friday, December 24, 2010

One very clumsy Hawksbill....

Let me introduce myself. I’m Georgia French, Project Coordinator for MCSS. I have been working here for about three months now and been on many turtle patrols but this one proved to be particularly memorable.....

We were headed to Intendence beach for our usual turtle patrol when we got a call from a Banyan Tree Staff member saying that there had been four turtle emergences on the beach that morning and one turtle was still present. This was great news for us as we haven’t caught a turtle on the beach for a little while and we were beginning to miss them!

We arrived to find a large group of tourists that were being managed by Banyan Tree staff standing well back from the nesting turtle. The intervention by the staff was good to see as two of the other emergences that morning had resulted in the turtles being scared back into the sea by unwitting tourists before they could lay their eggs. Thank goodness the staff were present to correctly manage the enthusiastic group for this turtle!

When we checked her laying stage we found that she had not yet begun to dig an egg chamber so we waited about half an hour for her to investigate the area and pick a spot that she was happy with.
Nesting turtle getting tied up in vegetation trying to find the right spot to nest; photo Caroline Baille

Once she had carefully excavated the egg chamber with her back flippers (I love watching this process, you would never think they could use their back flippers so delicately) I lay down behind her so that I could count the number of eggs that she laid. I think that she may have already nested a few times this season as she only laid 93 eggs. While she was laying, her carapace was measured and she was checked for injuries. She seemed to have a very fresh scrape on the back left of her carapace but it wasn’t a serious injury. Once she had finished laying we left her alone to cover her nest and then disguise it by throwing sand around with her front flippers. Unfortunately she managed to get a front flipper AND her neck well and truly stuck under some roots so we had to assist her in leaving the nest site.

On her way back to the sea at last! Photo Caroline Baille

When we knew she was about to head back to sea, we called over a family that had been waiting very patiently to see her return to the ocean. Making sure that they followed the turtle watchers code of conduct and stayed a safe distance away, the family took lots of pictures and were really happy to have witnessed such a rare and beautiful sight.

The happy family takes some photos of the turtle as she heads down the beach; photo Caroline Baille

But, once again, our turtle turned out to be somewhat unlucky. On her way over the rocks at the tideline, she managed to fall straight into a turtle-shaped hole! She was stuck fast with only her rear end and back flippers poking out which looked somewhat amusing but was a situation that required rectifying fast!

Stuck in a perfectly turtle sized hole! Photo Caroline Baille.

Myself and Devis Monthy used the protruding front of her carapace to pull her out of the hole and finally release her back to the sea. By this time there were a large number of spectators who all seemed very pleased to see this mishap prone turtle finish her trip.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Turtle Awareness Poster Challenge

As a part of our on-going turtle conservation programme funded by the Mangroves For the Future initiative, we recently ran a survey about peoples perceptions and knowledge regarding Seychelles turtles. The results were very interesting and one output was a targeted awareness aimed at school children.

Devis Monthy in charge of our turtle monitoring was tasked with implementing the project assisted by Georgia French our MCSS Project Coordinator and as Abi March (one of our whale shark programme team leaders) is both a designer and school teacher, she was asked to lend a hand …Abi was more than happy to assist, provided she could piggy-back some whale shark awareness into the project!

Abi came up with the idea of a short turn-around ‘Poster Challenge’ for four schools…. Who could come up with the best awareness posters in just one week!

This was a pretty tight time-line for the kids as well as the MCSS team but this Saturday it all came together and the kids got to show off what they had achieved at an exhibition at the National Library put together by the team along with information about the MCSS turtle and whale shark programmes.

The Turtle awareness info and posters

The exhibition drew a good crowd of visitors from the schools, with their parents and teachers as well as some coverage from the National Press, and most importantly the posters were brilliant!!!

As part of the prize, the winning entry from each school was to be turned into a T shirt design and all compiled as a set of postcards… The winning entries and had already been turned into a first transfer print of the T shirts, to give the prize winners and orders for more are already flooding in!

The prize winning entries turned into T shirts

You can’t blame them when you see the designs!
First prize - Takamaka Primary School: Kimberley Marie

First prize - Beau Vallon Primary School: Aniella Cherry

Do visit our whale shark blog for more images of the shark oriented posters!

The full list of winners was:

1st Place
Sam Benoiton - International School Seychelles
Kimberley Marie - Takamaka Primary School
Dominic Rene - Anse Royale Secondary School
Aniella Cherry - Beau Vallon Primary School
2nd Place
Wayne Amelie - International School Seychelles
Karlos Bouzin - Takamaka Primary School
Estelle Lepathy - Anse Royale Secondary School
Audrey Matombe - Beau Vallon Primary School

Kimberley wearing her own designed T shirt... in fashionable baggy size with some prompting from Abi!

We will let you all know when the designs are available in their final form… could be a great Christmas present!

Monday, October 4, 2010

First turtle encounter and nest relocation.

On the 24th of September the MCSS office received a phone call to inform us that there was a hawksbill turtle that came up at Anse Marie-Louise. Abi March and Devis Monthy, members of the MCSS crew set off to give a helping hand to the staff of the Anse Forbans Chalet.
They made a very good job of making sure that the turtle was not disturbed and returned back to sea in the best condition… Well the same condition that she was when she come ashore but just a bit lighter.

She tried to make a first nest but to no avail. Fortunately on the second try she was successful.
The MCSS crew arrived there a little too late because she had already gone back, but our trip was not in vain… Where she laid her eggs was not in the best location so it had to be relocated to somewhere closer to the chalets.

Abi and a hotel guest carefully start to excavate the nest to recover the eggs, photo Devis Monthy

She had laid in a quite busy activity area (the middle of the car park!) and without relocation we can safely say that it would not have survived to. A wooden log was placed in front of the nest before we arrived so that no one would park their car there or start a picnic!

Devis with the first load of eggs for relocating, photo Abi March

She had quite a load to release that’s for sure… 182 eggs had been laid. Unfortunately 4 eggs were damaged in our attempt to move the eggs but four is a small loss, compared to 182 if we hadn’t relocated them.

Abi replacing the eggs in the new nest, photo Devis Monthy

So we can say that the relocation was a success, now we have to wait about two months for us to see the fruit of our labor (the turtle and the relocation crew).

Our greatest thanks Brigitte the owner of Anse Forbans chalet, Mrs.Mathiot, and the guest at the chalet. For without their help, their appreciation for this species, we would not have been informed of the turtle emergence and it could have been one more lost nest.

To you all keep, up the good job…

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The monitoring continues...

Being the new guy on the block my work as the researcher for MCSS has just started. I was fortunate enough to be starting at the same time volunteers, interns and students were coming in for the whale shark program.

Shane Lucas, a student at the International school Seychelles came to MCSS for his work attachment. He is actually assigned to me, for helping me with the turtle monitoring. It’s been almost a month t hat he is here with me but unfortunately he hasn’t been fortunate enough to encounter a sea turtle on our monitoring beaches.

Well, we at MCSS hope that changes before he leaves us…..

On the more positive side of things, well we were able to see some tracks. By some tracks I mean 6 tracks. That doesn’t sound like much but it’s always a result!

As luck would have it, the first track was that of a green turtle which we encountered on our first monitoring session together.

Fresh tracks during the patrol, photo Shane Lucas.

One of the interns, Mariska Van Geldorp, is also helping us on the track counts that we do, once a week for the moment. That will intensify as the month progresses.

Devis, his brother Mickey and volunteer Mariska on beach patrol, photo Shane Lucas

Unfortunately one of the nests on the monitored beach has a dog problem. That being said, the dog in question has been up to quite a bit of mischief on his own. It has destroyed one nest already. The plan is to try and capture this dog in a manner that doesn’t involve killing it and bring it to a shelter.

So as you can assume not much is happening for the moment concerning the turtles.

As I’m still fresh on the job I haven’t been able to meet or introduce myself to everybody that is involve in the turtle monitoring in the area………. Do not worry or feel left out I will get a chance to meet you and formally introduce myself to you all. Furthermore I wish to thank everybody that has been and still involve in the protection and conservation of these majestic animals.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wilna's having a rough few days...

With the South East wind really kicking in this last week has been a rough one for Wilna the hawksbill turtle, tagged by MCSS with a satellite tag in December 2009. She had just nested on the South of Mahé when she was fitted with the tag which was a notable experience for the team as this was to be their first nigh-time tagging session (hawksbill turtles generally nest during day-light hours in Seychelles).

The MCSS team fitting Wilna’s tag in the dark, photo Betty Cecile.

Despite the challenge of working in the dark the team successfully deployed the tag which tracked her progress away from her nesting beaches as she headed North East to her foraging ground some 100km from Mahé.

Ever since December, Wilna’s tag has been transmitting daily updates about her position and diving habits until this week when her tag fell silent for two days. After the first day we thought that maybe there was a glitch with the data upload but by the second day we were worried that something had happened to Wilna as the tag’s battery should last for many more months and on checking with the satellite receiver system no messages had been received…

However, on the third day we had a confirmatory signal from the satellite system that Wilna’s tag is still functioning and she is still on her foraging grounds!

Wilna's position on the NE of the Seychelles Plateau

As these tags are very small and hawksbill turtles are fairly small animals, the tag is always very close to the water even when the turtle is resting on the surface. We suspect that with the rough sea conditions over the last few days the tag has simply not been able to transmit as even when the turtle is breathing it was likely to be too rough, keeping the tag semi-submerge all the time.

The satellite tag is very small and easily submerged in rough conditions, photo Elke Talma

So all is well… we just hope that Wilna isn’t getting too sea-sick…

Do turtles get sea-sick?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Guy On The Block

As Elke settles in to her new life on the island of Desroches so MCSS prepares to welcome her replacement as far as the turtle monitoring side of things at least… although small in stature she was a big act to follow and her replacement, Devis Monthy, may be just the guy to do that!

Devis with one of Aldabra's older residents!

Devis hails from our prime turtle area on the South of Mahe, from Anse Gaulette, Baie Lazare and so is more than familiar with the area. He is also more than familiar with turtles having worked on Aldabra first as a volunteer in 2005 and then as a boatman and ranger from 2006 – 2008 where he tagged a great many green turtles as a part of his routine monitoring duties. He is also experienced in the many routine monitoring duties on the atoll including terrestrial monitoring, which will doubtless be of use for the beach vegetation monitoring.

Devis rounding up a whole bucket full of straggling turtle hatchlings for re-direction towards the sea

Devis most recently assisted on the aerial survey of cetaceans and marine megafauna in the Western Indian Ocean, a marine mammal project implemented by the University of La Rochelle in France.

Devis starts at the beginning of August and may have already met some of the monitoring team during a familiarisation visit with Elke at the end of last month, so do keep an eye open for him and say ‘Hi’ if you see him on the beaches in the coming weeks… it will take a while for him to get to know everyone!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Elke’s last blog

After more than 7 years of working with MCSS, 6 of which were dedicated to turtles, it is time to move chase other turtles on Desroches!!!

This being my last MCSS blog, I am at a loss about what to say.

When David first suggested blogging, I was not impressed; in fact I thought it was the stupidest idea ever! I was already editing and publishing 3 newsletters for MCSS and now he wanted me to write a @*#$%£^ diary!

My first blog hinted at my feelings, but gradually I got into the swing of things and now I live for my blogs. In fact, I have discovered that not only do I like to hear myself talk; I also like to read what I write….repeatedly!!!

The MCSS Turtle blog was launched in September 2008, a month after the MCSS Whale Shark blog. After a few weeks David set up a counter for hits to our sites and being a little competitive by nature, I now had a reason to blog... I was going to out-blog the whale sharks!!!

Unfortunately, I failed!!!

The Turtle site lags behind by about 700 hits, however, my turtle loving pals and I have managed to write a total of 120 blogs compared to a measly 91 on the Whale Shark blog, proving that turtles still RULE!!!

I would like to thank everyone who has consistently read my blogs, especially those who volunteered to submit their own turtle blogs to the site... with any luck we have managed to convince a few people that turtles are important and should be protected.

Turtles of Mahé can breathe a sigh of relief as Elke leaves to “torture” turtles on Desroches, photo Ismael Mahmutoglu

Happy turtle “hunting” to you all.

MCSS wish Elke all the best with her move onto Seychelles outer islands... we have tried to warn the turtles what's about to happen!! The MCSS Turtle monitoring blog will continue with Elke's replacement and we hope Elke can send the odd message in a bottle for us to post...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Life-cycle of a Turtle

The SWOT website has been updated and includes an interactive diagram about the life cycle of sea turtles.

You can explore this interactive diagram and learn all about the life of a turtle by visiting here

SWOT issue V

The fifth issue of the SWOT Report was launched at the 30th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium in Goa, India. This volume puts the spotlight on Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles, with a 9-page special feature about these mysterious animals, including a comprehensive map of their global biogeography and an article focused on the “riddle of the ridley.”

As always, SWOT Report, Vol. V also features a variety of interesting stories from throughout the sea turtle research and conservation community.

To download your copy of the report visit the SWOT website.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Global Warming and Turtles

The effects of global warming/climate change will most likely have enormous impacts on turtles and other wildlife, mainly because the rate at which the climate is changing far exceeds the abilities of animals to adapt naturally to such dramatic environmental changes. In fact, scientists predict that many species will go extinct as a result of climate change.

With regards to turtles, a number of key climate change impacts have been identified:

Loss of nesting beaches: Sea level rise from the melting of polar ice is already contributing to the loss of beach and turtle nesting habitat. Weather extremes, also linked to climate change, mean more frequent and severe storms which alter nesting beaches, cause beach erosion, and inundate or flood turtle nests.

Seasonal beach erosion becoming more pronounced each year, photo Elke Talma

Reduced hatchling survival rates: Hotter sand from increasing temperatures results in decreased hatching rates or complete nest failure.

Month old turtle embryo dies in nests, photo Elke Talma

Imbalance in sex ratios: Increased sand temperatures will affect hatchlings by altering natural sex ratios, with hotter temperatures producing more female hatchlings.

Turtles gather at breeding sites and fight for mates, photo unknown

Change in their geographic distribution: Turtles use ocean currents to travel and find prey. Warming ocean temperatures influence migratory species by altering currents and impacting the distribution and abundance of prey species. This can result in southerly species being found in more northerly regions, well outside of their normal range.

Young leatherback hatchling at the mercy of the current, photo unknown

Loss of foraging grounds: Warmer water temperatures affect coral reefs through coral bleaching which are vital to the survival of species like the hawksbill.

Hawksbill turtle feeding on sponges, photo Pierre Andre Adam

While nothing can be done to stop changes in current flow, we can do our utmost to mitigate impacts to our coastline by making sure there is adequate beach vegetation to minimise sand erosion thus protecting the nesting platform and maximise shade cover to provide cool areas under vegetation to maximise or maintain egg survival rates as temperatures rise. This can be further enhanced through controlled coastal development. On a personal level, everyone should try to reduce their carbon footprint.

Monday, June 21, 2010

One big happy family!

I have been working on my family tree and it turns out I am related to Gilberte Gendron and Marcel Mathiot .

Gilberte is my 6th cousin and with the rampant inbreeding in Seychelles (particularly on La Digue) in the 1800’s, it turns out that I am not only related to her through her mother (my 5th cousin, once removed) but also her father (my 6th cousin) - although they themselves are only indirectly related by an ancestral marriage…much to Gilberte’s relief!
As for Marcel, well he is my 3rd Cousin 3 times removed, which means I am now also indirectly related to Patricia and through them, to their 4 year old grand-daughter, Lucy...a budding turtle fanatic!

This means there are now at least 7 turtle fanatics (including by parents) in the family!
On the down side, many of our common ancestors come from La Digue, so I am a little concerned about the turtle killers (legal or otherwise) lurking in our midst!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

MCSS and Chalets d' Anse Forbans – partners in turtle conservation

In March, long after the weekly monitoring had been discontinued by MCSS at the “end” of the 2009-10 Hawksbill Nesting Season, a turtle decided to emerge on Anse Marie Louise in front of Chalet No. 2. The sighting was reported to Brigitte Howarth, manager of Chalets d' Anse Forbans, who was on hand to ensure that the turtle was not disturbed by the many clients who were eager to photograph their first encounter with a nesting turtle.

As Elke was on the other side of the island, the turtle could not be marker tagged but as she has a distinctive scar, she is easily recognisable. In fact, according to Brigitte’s grandmother, the turtle had been seen nesting on the same beach some 6-7 years ago. Just to be on the safe side though, clients were instructed to take numerous profile shots which will be processed and added to the turtle photo-ID database.

Hawksbill turtle with distinctive scar bite mark nesting on Anse Marie Louise, Photo Chalet D’Anse Forbans.

The following day, Elke was on site to mark the nest and thus the long wait for the hatchlings to emergence began.

New nest markers designed by Elke in 2010 for sensitive nests, Photo Chalet D’Anse Forbans.

As the due date approached, there was concern for the turtle eggs as recent heavy rainfall and extreme high tides could significantly increase mortality rates within the nest. If the egg chamber remained waterlogged because of poorly drained soil, the embryos would suffocate or drown and the added moisture could encourage bacteria or fungal growth. This being the last nest of a rather poor nesting season, it was decided that the nest would be dug up and if necessary, the eggs incubated artificially to maximise the survival rate.

On the 5th May, Elke was on site to excavate the eggs which were due to hatch between the 4th and 19th May. Much to everyone’s surprise and delight the hatchling were resting some 10cm below the sand surface and, after being woken up by Elke, needed little encouragement to make the final trek to the sea.

Brigitte had rounded up her clients for the released and an impromptu turtle awareness talk given by Elke. By the time hatchling No. 159 made it to the sea, there were at least 20 very happy people on the beach, including a local building contractor who had come to see Brigitte for some work and had never seen a turtle in his life!

If the species is to survive, people need to be able to appreciate the wonder of nature, Photo Chalet D’Anse Forbans.

With 5 dead embryos in the nest, Elke was even able to get a DNA sample for Ifremer.

MCSS has been working closely with Chalets d' Anse Forbans in the South of Mahé since 2004 and over the years has received logistical and financial assistance for the MCSS Turtle Monitoring and Conservation Programme. While there may not be many nesting turtles on this beach, there are enough to keep the clients of Chalets coming back every year so they can finally see for themselves the one that got away. On-going rehabilitation work at the Chalets is also helping to provide suitable nesting sites for turtles on a beach that is severely affected by erosion.

Ms Daphné Jumeau of Chalets d' Anse Forbans (right) presenting MCSS with a cheque to help towards their ongoing work in the conservation of turtles in the Seychelles, Photo Chalet D’Anse Forbans.

NOTE: MCSS does not make it standard practice to dig up turtle nests, however, in special cases hatchling provide the perfect backdrop to turtle awareness talks for both residents and visitors, re-enforcing the need to protect these amazing animals.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Turtles dig the dark

Nesting turtles emerge from the sea each season to lay their eggs on a suitable beach. After laying, they use light reflected off of the water to find their way back to the ocean. Sixty days later, when the hatchlings emerge from the nest, they too use the reflected light to find their way to the ocean for the first time.

As we develop coastal communities, building beach houses, shopping centres and high rise hotels and apartment buildings, we are splashing more light onto these nesting beaches. Unfortunately the lights are coming from the wrong direction and can cause turtles to become disorientated. Often they will end up on a road, in a pool, an easy snack for land-based predators such as dogs, or simply get lost and bake in the morning sun.

For this reason, many coastal communities have "lights out" regulations during turtle nesting season. These regulations often require home and business owners to take modest steps to install turtle-friendly lights, draw curtains, or turn lights out after dark.

MCSS developed lighting guidelines for Seychelles with funding from the British High Commission, but unfortunately these are not always being implemented by tourism establishments or residents.
For a copy of the MCSS Turtle Friendly Developers Guide, please contact us.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Special issue of the Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter out now

The Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter (IOTN) provides a forum for the exchange of information on sea turtle biology and conservation, management and education and awareness activities in the Indian subcontinent, Indian Ocean region, and south/southeast Asia. The newsletter also intends to cover related aspects such as coastal zone management, fisheries and marine biology.

IOTN is distributed free of cost to a network of government and non-government organisations and individuals in the region. All articles are also freely available in PDF and HTML formats on the website. Readers can submit names and addresses of individuals, NGOs, research institutions, schools and colleges, etc for inclusion in the mailing list.

To date, 11 issues have been produced with the latest issue being dedicated to turtle projects in the Western Indian Ocean and features 10 articles, 2 project profiles and 1 announcement.

In support of the regional turtle conservation effort, MCSS contributed to an article on the newly developed photo-ID technique developed by Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory and one project profile to raise awareness about the MCSS monitoring effort in Seychelles.

To download a digital copy, please visit:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tourism Police help reduce failed nesting emergences.

Every season, a number of nesting turtles will inadvertently be scared off the beach by over enthusiastic tourists, eager to immortalise the experience with the perfect shot for their photo album... and to make their friends back home green with envy!

In 2004, MCSS created the “Turtle Watcher’s Code of Conduct” with funding from the British High Commission and while these have been widely distributed to tourism establishments located on nesting beaches around Seychelles, many tourist, and locals for that matter, still do not know how to behave around a nesting turtle.

The MCSS TWCC for nesting turtles, courtesy MCSS.

With the recent establishment of the Tourism Police Unit within the local Police Force, these Officers provide a unique opportunity to maximise nesting success while raising awareness about turtle conservation.

MCSS began working with the Tourism Police in the South of Mahé during the 2008-09 Nesting Season, with Christopher Adrianne reporting nesting emergences on a number of beaches and even assisting with a poaching incident. In 2009-10, Andy Agricole and Michael Jacques joined the un-official Turtle Team within the Tourism Police. Other Officers, particularly on Anse Intendance, were also on turtle watch but never seemed to see a nesting turtle.

Andy Agricole making sure a nesting turtle is not disturbed by tourist on Anse Takamaka, photo Elke Talma.

Through their tireless effort in patrolling their designated beaches and their enthusiasm for turtle conservation, a number of turtle’s nested successfully this season and hopefully many tourist returned home with a turtle tale to pass on to their friends.

After months of watching over nesting turtles, Christopher Adrienne finally sees his first hatchling, photo Elke Talma.

Family outing in Costa Rica

Turtles occur throughout the world’s oceans and while all are considered endangered, some even critically endangered, they are all of cultural and economic importance to coastal populations.
In Costa Rica for example, the “arribadas” of the Olive Ridley’s (i.e. massive nesting aggregations with thousands of females nesting in large simultaneous waves over small stretches of beach), bring families and the local community out for a day on the beach.

Costa Rican family enjoying the arrival of the Olive Ridley Turtle.

In typical Latin style, duties are delegated for the day’s activities. Women are charged with collecting the eggs, while surrounded by turtles desperately trying to lay their eggs in a limited window of time. The eggs are about the size of a lime, leathery in texture and amazingly tough, allowing them to be gathered straight from the eggs chamber and transported long distances without breaking.
Women dig for eggs

Arribadas are unique to turtles of the Lepidochelys family (i.e. Olive and Kemp Ridley turtles), and seem to be triggered by lunar phases. Generally, they occur around the start of the last quarter moon, but may also take place at any time including the full moon. Two arribadas (first and last quarter) may even occur in the same month and researchers have noted that the size and duration of the arribadas varies between the dry and wet seasons. Those occurring in the dry season of January to April tend to be smaller (approximately 5,000 turtles) and of shorter duration (less than 4 days). In the wet season of May to December, up to 300,000 turtles may lay over a period of 8 to 10 days. Depending on the location, there can be as little as 5 to as many as 15 arribadas in a year.

Once the women have filled gunny bags full of the precious eggs, the men take the bags off to market, where they are sold rather cheaply (less than US$0.01 per egg), for their aphrodisiac qualities .... they are also believed to cure erectile dysfunction!

Men carry the heavy load off to market.

Costa Rica is considered one of the best places in the world to witness an arribada, and while one would image this could cause a conflict between eco-tourism and the local culture, measures have been put in place to control the harvesting and also minimize poaching.

Since 1986 turtle eggs have been legally gathered by an organization know as the Association of Integral Development of Ostional (AIDO). The main goal of the exploitation and marketing of turtle eggs by AIDO is to achieve social growth of the community through controlled removal of eggs without compromising the reproduction and conservation of the species.

Controlled harvesting reduces poaching and helps preserve the species in Costa Rica.

As eggs deposited by early arrivees were being crushed by the next waves of turtles coming to lay eggs, it made sense to allow locals in this area to remove the first wave of eggs. Scientist also found that eggs laid during the dry season were unlikely to ever hatch due to the heat of the sand, which dehydrated the eggs.

Town’s folk collect and sell the eggs and use the money to help preserve the eggs in the subsequent waves of egg laying. The money was also used to build facilities in town, like schools and a clinic. Some of the money also ends up in the pockets of towns people, providing income where few jobs exist. The collected eggs are sold in bars and stores to meet the demand for turtle eggs and helps discourage poaching of eggs more likely to hatch. By providing a sufficient source of turtle eggs, the price of eggs stays low on the black market, discouraging incentive to poach them.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chalet D’Anse Forbans continues to support the MCSS turtle programme.

Chalet D’Anse Forbans, a family-run self-catering facility in the South of Mahé, has been supporting the MCSS turtle programme since 2004, through annual donations and staff participation in the ongoing monitoring on Anse Marie Louise.

Young Connor, one of the proprietor's children, respectfully following the MCSS turtle watchers code of conduct, Photo Elke Talma.

Together with their international partners, Trauminsel Reisen, the Seychellois proprietors of the Chalets have renewed their commitment to Turtle conservation in Seychelles as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of Trauminsel Reisen.

Between February 2010 to February 2011, Chalets d’Anse Forbans will donate €25 to MCSSS for each Trauminsel Reisen client staying 6 or more nights at the Chalets

Eligible Trauminsel Reisen clients will receive an MCSS “honorary turtle conservationist” certificate and will be added to the MCSS turtle blog mailing list.

Aerial view of Chalet d’Anse Forbans, photo Elke Talma.

For more information, please visit: Chalet D’Anse Forbans or Trauminsel Reisen.