Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An amazing volunteering couple!

A Warm Welcome from the Seychelles´ Turtles
We hit the jackpot! A total of six hawksbill turtles welcomed us in our first two volunteering weeks with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles. Emerging from the beach, digging a whole, laying the eggs and camouflaging –the turtles offered us the whole programme. But let´s start at the beginning…

Michi & Nina
We are Michi and Nina from Germany. MCSS is our first project on our 1-year volunteering trip to Seychelles, Madagascar, South Africa, Malawi and Canada.
Instead of the usual “laying-on-the-beach-and-move-as-less-as-possible-holidays”, this year we decided to do something meaningful by supporting the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS). And how could we spend our time better than protecting critically endangered turtles? Apart from this, patrolling the beautiful beaches of the Seychelles and monitoring its awesome fauna could still be regarded as a luxury holiday trip – just much more exciting.
Nevertheless, the first two weeks of our volunteering were anything but relaxed. The turtle’s nesting season just reached its peak which means one thing above all: a lot of action!While patrolling the beaches of south Mahe we encountered turtles nearly every day. Although each spotting was special in its own way, we will remember in particular one: our first hawksbill turtle encounter.

Turtle encounter on Anse Cachee
 What a beautiful surprise! This female hawksbill turtle is for sure around 30 years old, since this is normally the age when they are reproducing.

It was only our first day at MCSS, our first patrol and even our first five minutes at a Seychelles´ beach.We instantly spotted fresh and clearly visible turtle tracks in the sand upwards into the vegetation. Seeing just an up-track but no down-track usually means the turtle was still somewhere on the beach.
Indeed! We found her in the dense shrubbery still laying her eggs. Instantly, we could see how exhausted she already was after emerging from the beach, looking for the right place for her eggs and digging the nest. Yet, she still had one final but important step to undergo: covering and camouflaging the nest. Thereby, she hid the nest with sand and natural debris to guarantee an undisturbed and save environment for her eggs. The turtles take this phase extremely serious so that they can leave their eggs safely before going back to sea.

Nina & Annabelle counting the eggs as the turtle is laying
 Nina and Annabelle counting the eggs laid. All the data taken by MCSS contributes to an improved understanding of the species.
Nowhere else in the world than on the Seychelles Hawksbill turtles nest during the day and can be observed – while of course keeping a respectful distance–as impressive as here. Furthermore, they are categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN´s Red List of Threatened Species.  Our visit and work with MCSS will definitely not be our last one, but we have gained so much through this volunteering programme.

Maritime students' update at the end of their work attachment

The last blogs from the trainees......

Keith’s blog
Keith & volunteers with their encounter
Hello my name is Keith Folette, I’m studying at SMA (Seychelles Marine Academy).On my first day I encountered my first sea turtle (Hawksbill). This work attachment has really helped me develop my skills in the conservation sector.
Collecting egg clutch survival data
 At MCSS we work mainly with sea turtles and fresh water turtles, I learned a lot about them, and about their nesting seasons and their environment. And here at MCSS we are a rehabilitation centre so we help the injured turtles, we have a few Jacuzzi which we recycled and use as a habitat for the turtles, we organize the Jacuzzi into a temporary habitat for the mud turtles and every week we clean the water filters with the Jacuzzis to make sure that they stay in good running condition. So I really like this attachment, I really feel like I learned a lot. And the staff are really fun and friendly. In the near future I might consider working here….if the opportunity arises!

This is my last week at banyan tree with MCSS…. it has been such an adventurous journey for me. During the weeks at MCSS I’ve been really busy with turtle tracks, nests and turtle encounters especially on Mondays on the Grand Police beach. Last week I dug a nest on Anse Louis that had already hatched to see how many made it to the open sea, well sadly we found 10 little hatchlings dead and some eggs were rotten and some were not fully developed but 135 survived and that is quite good. At the center I also learned how to clean the filters  for the tanks of the terrapins and I also did some terrapin trapping around banyan tree wet lands, if we catch them we bring them back to the center and we measure, weigh, and tag them to know their movement. Around the center we also get some tourist that comes to visit so I give them a little tour around because we also have an exhibition about sea turtles, terrapins an animal’s around the wetland. I had a great experience here at MCSS; I really learned a lot…even more than I expected, the staff here is really friendly and corporative. My work attachment has been very fruitful.

Friday, November 11, 2016

New SMA students... introducing Isabella....

My first encounter!
My name is Isabella Oreddy and I’m a 1st year Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) student doing my work attachment with Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), based at the Banyan Tree Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation Centre. On day one, Monday, I did my first turtle patrol on Anse Intendance, but sadly there were no tracks or any turtle related activities. However, I did see some turtle nests that were already there before, and that was quite amazing for me because it was definitely my first observation of turtle nests. I did record some anthropogenic activity; this is the amount of human activity that occurs along the beach and in the water near shore, which could hinder a turtle’s emergence. My most exciting day was on Friday because I encountered my first Hawksbill turtle, though it did not lay after attempting to dig up an egg chamber in an area with hard ground.  I had the chance to measure and take pictures for photo identification as she was leaving the beach; I also saw lots of turtle tracks on different beaches that MCSS monitors.  I’m really having a great time and learning a lot, it is more than expected and I still have a whole month to keep learning!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Volunteering on the spot!

Friday's patrol got a bit more exciting when we met some tourists ...a mother and daughter visiting Seychelles from France.
Seems like Anse Bazarca had become their favorite beach after they had the opportunity to see a turtle emerge from the sea a few metres from them!.... I could sense their excitement and love for sea turtles as they told me the whole story and showed images they had captured. Ever since that encounter they have been spot checking the same beach in the hope of having more encounters....
After meeting the Monitoring team they both decided to tag along with us to patrol some other beaches....but unfortunately no more encounters but still great to spot tracks and new nests.

It was a great couple of hours together and the 'unexpected volunteers' enjoyed it .... thinking about it now.... we never exchanged names!!..... talking about sea turtles was all we did!....nonetheless... many thanks for your information and for tagging along ladies!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Good luck for the future girls

Celeste & Lynn
Celeste and Lynn have almost reached the end of their work attachment with us. They have well been involved in almost all of our day to day activities and tasks. MCSS strongly believes that education is the key to conservation, so it is always great to have the opportunity to pass on knowledge, skills and experiences….. we thank the Seychelles Maritime Academy for the opportunity…. Here is a last few lines from the girls…..

Cleaning the tanks

 During this last week we were taught how to do beach profiling  to monitor sand movement on the nesting beaches, basically checking the nesting platform for turtles. The nesting season is starting to pick up now…. it’s unfortunate we didn’t see that much turtles… but at least we had the opportunity to see two, sadly we didn’t get a chance to see hatchlings.
Celeste with her 2nd encounter
Lynn on a mapping site high up!

Our time here was quite interesting we learned a few things we didn’t know already , the MCSS staff were very welcoming and friendly which made our time here even better! Thumbs up for team!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nicola & Alan share their experience with MCSS

Hello, we are Nicola and Alan from the UK. We have spent the last week of our holiday in the Seychelles volunteering with the MCSS on the Marine Turtle monitoring project, patrolling nesting beaches.
A fresh track!
We have been walking along nesting beaches at the high tide line, first thing in the morning, looking for distinctive turtle tracks. These can alert us to the fact that a female turtle has hauled herself out of the sea to crawl up the beach looking for somewhere suitable to lay her eggs. All turtles must return to land to lay their eggs, usually on the exact beach where they were born.

Looking for tracks
In the Seychelles, we are mostly looking for Hawksbill Turtles, the smallest of the 8 species of marine turtle found worldwide. Unfortunately, the Hawksbill has suffered from human persecution, not only for meat and eggs, loss of nesting beaches due to development and pollution, fishing practices, but as their shells are widely regarded as the most beautiful and are collected for decoration.

Hawksbills are unique in the Seychelles for nesting in the day; other turtles only nest at night, but as long as it is high tide (reducing distance to crawl) they will emerge to nest. There are occasional Green Turtle nests (of which we only saw one set of tracks during our week with MCSS).

If tracks are found we follow them and look for nesting signs…digging, false nest, and successful nest. Hopefully, we will find an adult turtle. On one such survey we were lucky enough to do this! A local resort alerted us to a huge Hawksbill Turtle on the beach outside the resort and we found her just as she was starting to dig a nest. We spent the next hour and a half watching her dig an egg chamber, lay eggs, camouflage the nest, and then crawl back down the beach to return to her marine world. It was a fantastic experience, one which we will never forget!
Can you spot the turtle?

This nest was laid in close proximity to a development and was fairly close to the high tide line (naturally the Turtle would have crawled higher up the beach but was prevented due to development). As a result, we had to collect the eggs, and place them further up the beach in a nest which we had dug. We counted approx. 210 eggs, which is a huge amount for a Hawksbill. The new nest was dug within the resort beach and fenced off. Data was collected, including turtle size, nest location, and any hazards on the beach. In addition to this photos are taken of the heads of the turtles which is entered into a facial recognition program so that individuals can be monitored (e.g. which/when beaches are being used) and avoids stressful methods such as tagging. Nests are monitored until the hatchlings are ready to head to the sea, usually in around 2 months time emerging at night.
....and she's off!.....back to sea!

We have really enjoyed our week volunteering with MCSS and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the incredible marine wildlife of the Seychelles. Vanessa, Marine Turtle Monitoring Officer, was very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and welcoming and it was a really valuable experience, one which we would not have been privileged to if we did not get involved. We are very sad to leave the Seychelles and hope to come back again one day, maybe we will see some of the hatchlings we witnessed being laid returning to a nesting beach!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Annabelle's update

Really like the Trimble:)
About a month ago, I (Annabelle du Parc) joined MCSS and the Conservation Team as a volunteer to help Vanessa monitor the nesting beaches for turtles in the south of Mahé. Since then, we have found tracks of turtles on the beaches, new nests, damaged nests (by dogs), we have relocated a nest which was too close to the  high tide line on the beach.

taking emergence GPS
 Then on September 30th , while Vanessa was attending a very interesting workshop on Protected areas, organized by IOC, Aleks and I had the chance to encounter our first hawksbill turtle. Awesome!!!
Turtle encounter on GPO

Today, while MCSS was welcoming 2 students form Maritime School, we encounter as well a Hawksbill turtle who tried to find a nice place to lay her eggs, but unfortunately she left without nesting: the place was not comfortable enough! 

Turtle Encounter on COR
However, we restrained her while she was on her way back to the sea and checked if she had a tag, if she was not injured and we took identification pictures as well as measurements. What a great experience!! As The nesting season for hawksbill turtles has just started, this should happen more often and we should be very busy for the following months!!!

New maritime students (Celeste & Lynn)
Besides nesting turtles beaches monitoring, we also do beach profiling, in order to study the erosion of nesting beaches and their impact on turtles nesting behavior. With climate change and sea water levels increase threatening, this exercice done by MCSS once a month is of a great importance. Sea level rise could lead to erosion of coastal ecosystems and eliminate nesting beaches as well as wetlands. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

All about Sea Turtles!!

Exciting couple weeks here in south!

The nesting season for Hawksbill turtles has finally started; the beautiful creatures of the sea are coming up to lay their adorable little ping pong sized eggs on our beautiful beaches of Seychelles. We have been finding some sightings of turtles coming up some of the beaches and successfully laying their eggs. The first sighting was a green turtle that came up at Grand Police beach . 

Green turtle emergence track
I was so happy to see a green turtle track due to the fact that I was working on Aldabra before and that’s the most common turtle that comes up to nest on Aldabra. 

Vanessa joked around about how messy the green turtles are when they lay their eggs compared to the Hawksbill turtles ........which is true, but I still love them. However, for now it is believed that Green turtles nest all year round.... so there tracks are sometimes expected among the Hawksbill's tracks on the beaches.

Vanessa and Annabelle (Volunteer)
Although we all know that in a couple weeks we are going to be busy with the turtles, rushing into work early morning and leaving the beach late in the afternoon and past normal working hours, but we do it because we love these animals and after all we are the Conservation Team!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Humpback whales seen at east coast of Mahe

Today morning, around 9:30 AM we have received a phone call, telling that there has been some whale activity on the east coast of the island. Without any delay, we arrived at the spot. The hexocopter drone was in our possession in order to locate the whales from above. Unfortunately, the weather conditions and some technical issues didn't allow us to use the flying device, so we kept monitoring the bay from land.

On our way to the next observation point we saw it. A massive full-size jump form another side of the reef, it was definitely a humpback whale. Moreover, it was two adults. After spotting them, they were periodically jumping from the water with good synchronization.

It is unusual to see the humpback whales in this part of the island's waters, especially at this time of the year. Hopefully, next time the humpback whales will show their presence near the coast of the Mahe island the weather conditions will allow us to make better footage.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Passing on my droning skills!

Finally my acquired skills in drone flying are really being used to the maximum so far.... Inga Petelski is back with us and this time instead of being a volunteer...I'm thrilled to say she is now my colleague! The Project Leader for the Grand Police Wetland Project.

The upcoming UAV Pilot!
 I have been teaching Inga to fly the Hexacopter and how to plan Auto missions, I must say that we make a good team....my good teaching skills and her wonderful learning skills make a great match! There is still much practice to be done though but I think soon Inga will be able to plan a whole mission and fly the drone without my assistance!
Auto landing after a mission
 Yesterday we managed to map 2/3 of the wetland area, next week with some fully charged batteries we will be back on site to complete the mapping, which is simply sending the drone in autopilot on a pre-planned path and the GoPro takes pictures every 2 secs. The pilot only follows the drone's movement from the computer ensuring it is on the mission and if anything goes wrong the pilot is ready to take over with the radio transmitter. Though the drone's Aotupilot is very precise and if for example there is a low battery issue, the auto pilot terminates the mission and returns to launch at the Home Location, which it where it first took off.
 To complete the map all the pictures are stitched together using a computer software which Inga and I will get to discover soon.
successfully landed!

Cleaning up Anse Grand Police

Wednesday 6th July was a great day with perfect weather and the perfect team for cleaning up Anse Grand Police. MCSS had a very enthusiastic group of volunteers from the International School of Seychelles who did a great job.
Lots of rubbish is washed up on the beach especially this time of the year and as we are still getting Green turtles coming to nest as they nest all year round, so it is important to constantly keep the nesting platform clear and clean.
the volunteers getting ready to start
 The team decided that a picture of their success was needed, it was quite hot but the cool breeze from the sea kept them going....and of course the beautiful surrounding kept them motivated to leave this beach rubbish free...at least for the day.
bags full of rubbish!
 After collecting, the great task at hand was to then carry....or drag everything to the middle of the beach where all the rubbish was sorted and the cans and pet bottles found would be redeemed later on for recycling purposes and the extra cash goes towards the MCSS projects, especially the Rehabilitation and the Turtle Conservation Project.
dragging the heavy bags to the truck
Special thanks to the volunteers and the International School of Seychelles!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

after 5 amazing months we say goodbye to Lea....here is her last blog!

Last Wednesday, near Anse Governement beach, Vanessa and I had a break down with the car. The brake was not working anymore and we were driving downhill!! Luckily, Vanessa is a very good driver who had the situation under control managed to stop the car with the handbrake and gradually moving to first gear ........without even panicking! We had to wait around 2 hours the mechanic and our other colleagues to pick us up. Anyway, it was ok, because during all this time we were chatting J.

We survived!
Lea trying to be superwoman!
Wednesday 5th of June was my last patrol, I was very sad… It was the last time for me to patrol all the beaches we monitor. I was used to that routine for the past 5 months. I will miss every Wednesday morning, driving with Vanessa and looking for tracks or turtles!! At  Anse Government we stop 2 minutes to take a selfie with Robinson Crusoe!....... Yes the famous Robinson Crusoe… every Wednesday we usually see this guy (with long hair and long beard) on the beach enjoying life, doing nothing and drinking is kaloo (local alcoholic drink made from coconut trees)… So for my last day we decided to have a selfie with him and he was absolutely ok with the idea!!
Once in a lifetime picture with Robinson Crusoe!
 5 months ago, I joined the MCSS team. It was just amazing. I have done a lot of thing. During the two first months, I was helping Vanessa to monitor the beaches for turtle activities. It was lots of amazing moment with turtles (measuring the carapace, counting the number of eggs, writing at what time she was doing each step for the nesting process). I also had to dig the most amazing nest ever. When I was digging one nest, we found 225 hatchlings already on their way out to the water... Wow, I was so lucky.
During this internship, I have also done lots of birds’ survey, setting up trap to catch terrapins and doing beach profiling every month.
Otherwise, since the first of April, we had our patient Eden that we need to take care of every day, so since two months now, we have to forced feed him, weigh him, and clean the tank. I will miss this beautiful marine turtle a lot. I hope he will get better soon and will live as long as possible, because we do our maximum for this cute turtle.
Feeding Eden

Finally ....I would like to say a big thank you to Vanessa who taught me lots of things and who has always been so nice to me. And also, a big thank you for David, Jonny, Holly, Rebecca, Imogen and the others who were working with me and who made my internship in Seychelles an amazing one . 

Last beautiful picture together!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

General Update on the 2015-2016 turtle nesting season

The Highlights of the season has passed and turtle monitoring is quite easy and quick now without tracks and turtles on the beach....but the patrol must go on and MCSS monitors the nesting beaches throughout the year...... you never know...... we might bump into something interesting!

It has been an exciting season so far and as you have seen following our previous blogs..... turtle encounters....... hatchlings.......those are enough to make your day and keep you thinking that this must be the best job ever!!
Explaining track measurements
Altogether we had the chance to encounter 54 nesting Hawksbill turtle...and each felt like the first one due to the excitement of simply encountering these beautiful creatures. My favorite patrol so far was the day I encountered 5 nesting turtles on one beach...at the same time!! Wonderful to experience but one can go bonkers trying to collect data from all of them at the same time!

Apart from the encounters a great number of tracks were also recorded on the nesting beaches; 426 tracks. Altogether 222 nests were identified and we have been able to collect egg clutch survival data from quite a good number of nests.

However, this season we recorded a higher number of poaching incidents, sadly some people are still killing Hawksbill turtles though the fact that they are critically endangered, this only makes me more determined to push on through with the conservation work that we are doing and reinforce on strategies to bring more protection for Sea Turtles.

Nesting Hawksbill turtle

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eden ....the unlucky turtle!

On Thursday 31st of March, people who worked on a cruise ship found an injured marine turtle around the Eden Island marina. They told us that she was bleeding a lot. The Greenline from the Ministry of Environment were contacted and they called MCSS, to take the role of rehabilitating the turtle.
showing the deep cut on the carapace
trying to keep the wound dry

 The little juvenile Hawksbill turtle was named Eden. For 5 days, he was on antibiotics and he was left in a tank with a damp towel for a couple of days because we had to keep the wound dry. On the 5th day we put epoxy on the scar to prevent water from coming through the carapace. 
sealing the wound
After 6 days in the tank without water, we decided to put Eden in a big tank with fresh water for 2 days (only to kill the algae on his carapace)., then we switched to putting sea water in the tank. He hasn't been eating for the moment, but he seems better...it was decided that another dose of antibiotics was needed  to hopefully limit the risk of infections.
resting  on the rocks
swimming in hiw temporary home

Monday, March 7, 2016

Flowers...wildlife...&...turtle nests!

Another quiet week! We caught a grand total of zero terrapins this week, but several accidental fish, which were immediately released. Whilst exploring the wetlands I did find a beautiful orchid-like vine growing beside the water, we are currently trying to identify it to find out whether it is endemic or invasive. 
Thursday was World Wetland day and we celebrated with some educational tours around the wetland grounds. The highlights included; a tiny moorhen hatchling, a green-backed heron and a rowdy nest of cattle egrets. Bat surveys are also continuing in search of the Seychelles sheath tailed bat, no luck so far.

 On Friday we had some friends Susannah, Felix and Rufus in who volunteered to help us out with the terrapin trapping and patrolling the beaches. It was a very successful day, excavating four nests in total, one of which had a huge clutch size of 180 hatched eggs. 
counting the egg shells

Another of the nests had been laid inside a manmade wooden cave; we were relieved to find that the hatchling turtles had still successfully made it out and to the ocean despite the obstacles! 

Excavating another nest

Rufus and Felix were a great help on such a busy day, excavating the nests, counting up the eggshells, and even inputting the anthropogenic data into the Trimble on our beach patrols!
Rufus inputting data in the Trimble

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Beach profiling week!

This was beach profiling week. I did it with Vanessa and Holly. It was very hot, but we managed to do it fast and well. There was a very big change in the beach compared to one month ago, because of the heavy rain. We found lots of erosion on the beach, and a very big cliffs due to the loss of sand.

Vanessa profiling on Anse Bazarca

Huge erosion cliff on Anse Cachee

Measuring the segments

Otherwise, on Wednesday morning we found a depression at a nest, in Anse Cachée, near the road. It means that this turtle crawled a lot before finding a good place to lay two month ago. Only one baby turtle was still there, we presumed that the others left early morning. In total we had 153 egg shells, one intact rotten and 4 too rotten. When we dug up the nest, we expected to have lots of rotten eggs because the sand was very very wet. However, it was a successful nest because we had 153 eggs shells meaning at least they managed to crawl out and start their adventure in the sea!

Friday morning, Holly and Vanessa, found another depression in Anse Cachée. In the nest, there was still one baby turtle that was in the hole. They found 69 egg shells and 12 eggs rotten and predated. In the nest they found a crab hole. This might explain why there were only 69 hatched eggs as the crabs can sometimes drag the eggs around and predate them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The good and bad side of the rain!

The late comer
Monday 15th February was still an amazing day for me despite the heavy rain. In the morning, I saw a turtle who was covering her nest. She was very big, her carapace length was  84cm and the width was 73cm. Vanessa and I, watched her until she went back to the sea. It was another amazing moment with the turtle. I am so lucky, because in the end of January it is generally the end of the nesting peak season, I never thought we would still be having encounters in mid February!!

The journey begins!
Then, in the beginning of the afternoon we saw a hatching on Anse Intendance. Johnny and Holly (my colleagues) have seen a little depression and when they touched the sand, they could feel some movements. So they began to dig and they found on the top some little turtles. They didn’t want to dig the entire nest, because the baby turtles have to come out alone without help. So we were waiting for maybe 30 minutes, and when the heavy rain came (the temperature outside was now lower than the temperature inside the nest) all the turtles came out of the nest. They were very fast. In total, we had 141 baby turtles. Even though we were very wet (like we go out of the shower) it was a beautiful moment. What an amazing day, a big turtle and lots of baby. What more could you want?

First few hatchlings coming out
Eroded nest
Today, in Anse Corail, we saw a track of a Hawksbill turtle. I think this one was very confused because of all the obstacles and because of the hard ground. She did 5 body pits and she finally laid near a shelter….
We were also sad, because since Monday, in Seychelles, there was
very heavy rain and some flooding, and in Anse Corail 3 nests were destroyed: 2 flooded and one because of the erosion cliff (when we arrived, we found a cliff into the nest… So Vanessa moved 60 eggs away but we are not sure that the turtles will hatch because of all the water and because the eggs were not in the sand anymore….