Thursday, December 14, 2017

Good & Bad ...all in one day!

Hi all,
the season is in full swing now, last week we had an amazing encounter with a nesting female Hawksbill turtle, being able to observe her whole nesting process from her emergence to her exit. We also had a couple of enthusiastic volunteers for the day; Johanna and fact Johanna was the one to spot the turtle first! We stayed with the nesting turtle for almost 2 hours to ensure she safely made her way back to sea after laying her eggs.
Happy volunteers behind the nesting turtle
counting the eggs as they are laid
However, as we moved onto another nesting beach for patrol, the team found signs of a possible poached incident, as Vanessa the Project Leader went to double check, it was then observed that the turtle's up tracks had been erased by humans due to the footprints alongside the track and there wasn't any down tracks, after a quick search under some dry coconut leaves, the poached turtle was found, very likely hidden there for later collecting as she was still intact.
It was later observed that the turtle was barely alive and past away on it's way to try and get some treatment.

poached turtle found hidden under natural debris

injury to the head
 It is important that any poaching incidents observed are reported promptly and even if suspicious people are found around nesting beaches. Please do contact the authorities.
do take note!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Salome is back!

Hello All !
I'm back in Seychelles! I missed the turtles so much....I started in mid November.
The season was a bit weird, not a lot of turtles were coming to nest.... Maybe because of the el Nino in 2016, because of hurricane...?? We have to figure out what happened.
turtle patrol on Anse Corail
Hopefully since one week ago, I'm relieved to see the turtles are arriving! The numbers of tracks are increasing and the nests too: I had my first encounter for the season since I’ve been back.
Monday was a crazy...but exciting day, we had two turtles that came to nest... I could see all the process of the nesting behavior, because she had just arrived on the beach when we saw her. She had started with the body pit, and then she dug the nest with precision and laid. This turtle actually laid approximately 256 eggs…Incredible!...a new record definitely as Vanessa- the Project Leader said her record was 211 eggs counted during the laying process of one turtle.
tracks of poached turtle
Unfortunately, we also have had some poaching episode, I hope it will stop soon and people will understand that these turtles are critically endangered and they need our help to keep their population stable.

Continue to follow us, the season is not finished…in fact it is just starting to peak up!

Nick shares his experiences so far.

Hi..My name is Nick!

Flying the drone on Anse Bazarca

I am 22 years old and come from the cold, wet and flat Netherlands. Currently I’m on a 20 weeks internship as part of my education. I study Environmental Science and I’m in my third year.The first 10 weeks I spend in the North of Mahé, in Beau Vallon. There I worked with coral restoration and provided snorkelling tours for resort guests. We also build coral tanks where we used small coral fragments and grow them until they are big enough to be planted back into the ocean. Since half November I moved to the south, to AnseForbans, and joined the MCSS team there. Now I’m working on the Turtle Conservation project. This is a very nice project where we patrol beaches three times per week to check for turtle tracks and nests. I did not have a lot of knowledge about turtles before I came here but that is quickly changing. It is very interesting and beautiful to see a turtle nest and then make its way back into the ocean.

Checking the screen for any tracks
I am also testing the efficiency of drones to conduct beach patrols, so I get to fly the drone over some of the main nesting beaches to identify tracks and test whether it is faster to use the drone...which indeed it is, but walking the beach is still a must especially when there are indeed tracks and the team has to collect necessary data and check if the turtle laid.

I really love the life here in Seychelles and it was not very hard to get used to the climate and lifestyle here, except for the mountains though. It is going to be much harder to get used to the weather when I’m going back home in January (but I don’t want to think about that yet).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Will comes to the end with MCSS

Today is unfortunately my final day with MCSS. Over the last 4 weeks I have had the pleasure and absolute privilege to have input on several conservation projects including bird and terrapin monitoring, the new giant tortoise rehabilitation programme and of course my favourite: turtle monitoring. I have spent my mornings walking along some of the world's most beautiful beaches on the lookout for turtle tracks and nests, and my afternoons surveying their profiles for changes in sand gradient using both traditional and more modern drone-based techniques. It feels great to pass on GIS and computer mapping knowledge I have learnt at university and apply it to a real-world charity that does such important work.

I was fortunate enough to see a nesting turtle on my very first day with MCSS. Today, on my final turtle patrol, the island was kind enough to round off my trip by giving me another encounter. Whilst walking the far end of Anse Bazarca, eyes fixed on the high tide line for any sign of activity, I glanced up to the other end to see Vanessa waving her arms frantically in the air, a sight I always pray to see as it can only mean one thing - an actively nesting turtle!
within centimeters of a tourist!

Unfortunately, this turtle had chosen a rather poor spot to try and nest, along an open path area linking the beach and road. It had tried to dig a couple of pits but the sand was too compact and shallow. Its proximity to the road had also drawn a small crowd of tourists. It is at this point I feel obliged to mention the turtle watchers code of conduct once more. It is imperative that when encountering a sea turtle, you stay out of its line of sight, as still and quiet as possible and to give the creature plenty of space. Of course as tourists we want to capture videos and pictures to record this special moment, but this can't come at the expense of such a vital and delicate process. Turtle numbers are in decline and only ~1% of hatchlings reach adulthood, so it is of the utmost importance that we have as many undisturbed nestings as possible.

Whilst the crowd of people on this occasion were not overly disruptive, the poor location of the site forced this female to abandon its nesting attempt and return to the ocean. During its return crawl Vanessa and I were able to quickly approach and gather important size and head I.D. data, though because the turtle has not laid this can be mildly distressing, so can only be done by those trained to do so. She then glided swiftly back into the rolling waves, disappearing into the great blue. Hopefully on her return within the next few days she will find a suitably peaceful and appropriate spot to lay her precious cargo.
managed to exit the beach safely
I am incredibly sad to be leaving MCSS as I have made memories that will last a lifetime in what felt like such a short period of time. To witness a nesting turtle has forever been a dream of mine and to have fulfilled this at such a young age feels incredibly special. An encounter on my first and last day is a truly wonderful welcome and farewell to the Seychelles. Please take care of the islands and our oceans and continue to support charities like MCSS doing such honourable work.
Many thanks to all,
I will be back one day.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Will...the guy with the lucky charm!

Since the beginning of the turtle nesting season, no turtles had been encountered yet...but turns out Will our newest volunteer had the lucky charm, on his first patrol...the first encounter was also recorded!
Below is his description of his experiences so far.....
First day on patrol
My name is Will, I am 22 and from England. Having just graduated from university with a BSc in geography I was ready to go out and use my acquired skills to help the world, which was when I applied to be a volunteer at MCSS. I have been in the beautiful nation of the Seychelles for just over a week now, working with MCSS at their Banyan Tree Resort conservation centre in the south of Mahe.

Among other things, I am largely involved in the sea turtle monitoring programme. This consists of morning patrols along some of the main nesting beaches here in the south of Mahe, where the critically endangered hawksbill turtle comes to lay eggs. The Seychelles is one of only two places in the world where the hawksbill nests during the day, whilst other species nest at night - including the green turtle, which also nests locally.
First turtle for the season
During a patrol we are looking for distinctive tracks in the sand where a turtle has hauled itself up the beach and beyond the high tide line to dig a body pit, lay eggs and then re-cover and camouflage the site before returning to the sea. Track widths are measured as an indication of the turtle’s size and the nest is GPS recorded for future monitoring.
If we are lucky (as I was on only my first day!), we may find a turtle mid-way through nesting. During this time it is very important to abide by the ‘turtle watchers code of practice’ so as not to disrupt such a delicate and vital process. Namely this involves: approaching from behind, moving slowly and staying quiet, maintaining a respectful distance and not surrounding or trapping the turtle in anyway, giving it a clear path to the sea at all times. Once the turtle has begun laying, we approach to collect data on the size of the carapace (shell top) and check the animal for any tags or damage. Photos are taken of both sides of the head, where a unique layout of scales acts as the ‘fingerprint’ of the turtle, allowing us to individually identify it in a computer database.

We have also recently begun using drones to patrol some of the more inaccessible beaches, particularly on the lookout for poachers. Unfortunately, poaching of sea turtles is still a major global issue, despite their internationally protected status and even here in the island paradises of the Seychelles. To think how someone could murder such a beautiful, innocent and defenceless creature is completely beyond me.
second encounter on Anse Bazarca
Sea turtle monitoring programmes here and around the world are of great importance if we are to conserve these critically endangered animals, whose populations continue to decline, mostly due to our own shortcomings - poaching, pollution, over-development and habitat destruction. The threat of global climate change will also continue to hamper turtle populations as sea levels rise, drowning previously viable nesting sites and raising beach temperatures, which are believed to be causing an imbalance in gender ratios (turtle hatchling sex is determined by temperature in the nest, with temperatures above ~29C resulting in females and below in males). Moreover, there is likely to be more adverse effects not yet accounted for or understood - e.g. This season has been especially slow to start, with only half the number of turtle nests recorded compared to the same time in the previous few years.
off she goes!
I feel extremely fortunate to take part in this important work and to witness a nesting turtle on my first day and again on my fifth. To sit next to and closely watch such an incredibly beautiful, graceful and endangered animal is a true privilege, providing memories I shall cherish forever.
I can only hope that our work and that of the global conservation community is enough to ensure the survival of this prehistoric creature long into the future. These environments and the species that occupy them are so stunning, but also so fragile, we cannot afford to take them for granted or we will lose vital keystones in the ecosystem and indeed essential elements that make living on Earth such a pleasure. 

she drew in a crowd for sure!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Beach cleaning and clearing of nesting sites

As usual, the Turtle monitoring team gives Mother Nature a helping hand with the nesting turtles being the main beneficiaries.
Special Forces Unit & MCSS team
This year we got the special help of a group of tough guys from the Special Forces Unit, though not present on site today, all of this was possible through the great organisation and corporation of Major Archil Mondon who put the team together.
As most of the nesting beaches are usually cleaned often by some cleaning agencies, though some r rubbish was still collected, the main focus was on the removal of natural debris like dried up vegetation to allow easy access through the vegetation especially for the nesting Hawksbill turtles.

Removal of natural debris
MCSS girls clearing vegetation
Usually the Hawksbill turtles start making an appearance during September but so far it is still very quiet and only one set of tracks was seen along with a nest on one of the nesting beaches.... nonetheless we're keeping our fingers crossed in hope of encountering our first nesting turtle for the season and though obviously the nesting season is starting a bit later than usual, we are hopeful that eventually we will have a productive season in general.

Selfie time ...Team MCSS

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hawksbill turtle nesting season 2017-2018

For the past nesting seasons, the females would usually start nesting during the early weeks of September before the season reaches its peak October to January...however up to date we haven't had any encounters nor an identification of tracks on the beach yet.

The big team monitoring the beach
However, we will not give up hope and the MCSS continues to monitor the beaches twice a week and gradually increase to three  times a week once the season is in full swing.
Most of our effort now is into beach cleaning and rubbish is collected whenever we go for the beach patrols.
Collecting rubbish on Anse Grand Police
As Hawksbill mostly prefer nesting in the vegetation line we will soon be having a beach clearing event to clear the nesting grounds for the turtles and get some exterior help to conduct this along with the big team of volunteer, interns and staff of MCSS. The intention is to simply remove natural debris like dry branches to allow the turtle to easily penetrate through the vegetation and thus increase the probability of successful nesting.
Anse Bazarca where clearing of nesting ground is needed
Hopefully we will come back with a more interesting blog soon with the announcement of the nesting season being officially open as we start having encounters and tracks on the now deserted beaches!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Currently I am half way through my second week working with MCSS. I heard about the project in UK throughs the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Climate and Energy. I am a student at the University of East Anglia studying International Development with a focus on natural resources. I understand that most people who take internships here at MCSS come from a biological background, however I am interested more broadly in the cross over between development and conservation. Through participating in conservation, I can better understand conservation management and the interface between conservation and community development.
Therefore, I chose to take an internship with the Temporal Protected Areas (TPA) project. The TPA project is trying to develop areas that can be enforced as a protected area during the turtle nesting season. This is providing the opportunity to see how real ‘cutting-edge’ conservation is being conducted in one of Earths most precious biodiversity ‘hotspots’ with its unique rates of endemism. This includes being one of the top 5 places in the world for the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle to nest. Poaching and coastal development is a big problem here, threatening the turtle populations,so protected areas hopes to allow them the space to reproduce safely. However, creating TPAs and managing them is also a complicated issue, of which has interesting solutions.
So far things have been going very smoothly, everyone here is super kind helping me stay busy and integrate me into the project. With the TPA project I spend most my time beach profiling and beach monitoring/patrolling. Although TPAs are not officially established on a legal basis, MCSS is operating as if many of the beaches here are TPAs already to help turtles and illustrate the benefits of protected areas. Such work includes collecting data to measure the rates of erosion on the beaches and monitoring beaches for anthropogenic obstacles that would obstruct the turtles nesting. At the moment, it is not turtle nesting season, yet it is important to still check for nests and how able they will be able to nest when they do arrive.Everyday I’m in the field on some of the most beautiful and wild beaches I’ve ever seen.
Beach profiling Anse Bazarca
Beach profiling Anse
In addition, I have begun working with the AnseForbans wetland restoration project. This has been really exciting as there’s loads to be done! This is the great thing about MCSS, when there is help needed, they allow you to integrate into other projects too. My main job with this is to start mapping out the whole wetland area including the rivers that feed and stem from the wetlands. This means I am having to battle with GIS software, but useful knowledge to have. We have just begun terrapin trapping also, something I have assisted with at Banyan tree, and also water sampling for pollutants. All of this is helping me see what needs to be collected in order to develop plans for restoration projects and to learn more intimately how ecosystems are all interconnected.

Hopefullythere is a chance to communicate more with local farmers/residents at AnseFrobans about the importance of wetlands, and how they will benefit from wetland restoration and how they can be part in the decision making over the restoration plans. But for now work is sweet and pleased to have several more weeks here on Mahe!

2016-2017 Seasonal Report

The 2016-2017 nesting season has come to an end and we have already entered into the 2017-2018 nesting season, although at the moment it is very quiet  with no  Hawksbill turtles nesting so far, except for a few Green turtle tracks found over a month ago on the main nesting beaches.

For the 2016-2017  season, we recorded 370 emergence on the 14 monitored beaches, along with 164 nests.
MCSS also had the chance to encounter 40 nesting turtles, which is always very interesting and we get to collect some data on them; carapace length and width, check for any injuries or abnormalities, check if they have a tag number and also get good pictures of the left and right side of the face for identification. The best task though is to try and do an egg count as they are laying...this can be very tricky as sometimes you can have 3 or 4 egg coming out at the same time..and this happens fast, so the final count is always an approximate count.

The MCSS team is now looking forward for the peak of the nesting season for 2017-2018, new volunteers and interns will be coming in and they will be keeping an update of all the highlights of the season.
Other than that, we will soon be celebrating the Sea Turtle Festival Seychelles and the team is ready to participate in the March and spread sea turtle awareness in the country.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Emiel's final blog

Hello everyone, it is Emiel again. The journey comes to an end.
 It has been an amazing experience and I learned a lot. The hawksbill turtle nesting season was just ending when we arrived so for our project we did not have a lot of work to do with nesting turtle as there weren't any!

Green turtle track from above using the drone
We (me and my buddy Tarek) went on beach patrolling every Wednesday, on all the 14 main nesting beaches, to see if there were any emergences and nesting of green turtles. Green turtles nest the year round. Every second week we found green turtle tracks and also some nests, mostly on Anse Grand Police and AnseBazarca. The last week, we even got to fly a good high-tech drone! We were testing if it would be a more efficient way of patrolling the beaches. It wasn’t at that moment, probably because we were still figuring out how we could do it in the best way, but regardless it was awesome.
The other days we helped out with the other projects. We helped out Inga with here terrapin trapping project, even taking over her project for a week when she was away. This was very cool as we had the chance to drive around the south of the island, to all the different wetlands. Some of them were in the forest, some of them in local farms or even in peoples’ backyard. Everyone was
always really friendly and interested in what we did, asking us questions and being enthusiastic when we caught a terrapin. We even got filmed by a crew of CNN, for a documentary.

On Tuesday and Thursday, we usually did bird monitoring. I really liked this one. We had a few transect across the Banyan Tree wetland where we would then count all the birds we found on our path. This was a great opportunity to learn about all the different birds in the wetlands in on Mahé. In the end, we saw all the birds there were to see in the wetlands and from some of them even their nests and juveniles. 
Luckily, after three weeks, we did not have to do the water hyacinth clearing anymore. It was not the most fun job in the world and on top of that it did not really feel helpful. They were growing way to fast! The resort finally realized they had to do something about it and hired an external contractor to
Last and not least, everyones’ favorite, the beach profiling. To do a beach profiling, you have certain fixed points along the beach, on the most inland side of the beach. At low tide, you define the angle/inclination of the beach and the distance towards the sea. You repeat that for each time the angle changes, until you get to the water. You repeat all this for all the points on the beach. We did this for 6 nesting beaches (Anse Intendance, Anse Grand Police, Anse Petit Police, AnseBazarca, AnseCorail and AnseCachee). This way if you do it each month over a long period of time, you can see how the beaches evolve over time. Do they rise because they get more sand deposit from the sea or do they erode? Interesting job but time consuming and exhausting as you spent the whole day in the sun.
All in all, it was an amazing experience with a lot of amazing people to work with! I really enjoyed my stay but sadly, now it’s time to go back home to Belgium. I would like to thank everyone I worked with for the great time I had here. Thank you Vanessa, Alessia, Rebecca, Tarek, Elena, Luana and Inga.
A shot I took with the drone!

Tarek's final blog

It´s time to say good bye....

After 9 weeks of volunteering with MCSS this amazing experience is coming to an end and I have to go back home to Germany. During the last weeks, I learned a lot about sea turtles and their nesting behaviour (hawksbill and green turtles) as well as about their small relatives the freshwater terrapins. Especially in the last weeks we were lucky to find some new green turtle nests in AnseBazarca and Grand Police. It is really impressing to see how much effort a mother turtle takes to protect her offspring, digging multiple holes to camouflage the actual nest. Of course, as soon as the mother is done with laying up to 200 eggs in the nest (multiple times per nesting season)her job is done and she probably won´t see her offspring again.
Green turtle track on Grand Police
Also, the hatchlings have a hard time to survive their first days, digging out of the nest, escaping the crabs, and finally surviving the dangers of the open ocean. Sadly, not all of them even make it to the ocean.
Dead Hawksbill hatchling on Anse Cachee
Furthermore, I participated in several other projects like the AnseForbans terrapin monitoring project, the bird monitoring project in the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort and the clearing of invasive water plants in the wetlands.
Black mud terrapin caught in AnseForbans, marked for identification if recaptured
I really enjoyed the time volunteering with MCSS and because of the possibility to participate in different project I could archive many new and diverse skills. I am very happy for meeting all the people working for MCSS and for spending time with the other volunteers hiking, diving and of course working.
Thanks everyone for the great experience,


 Night Heron in wetlands of the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort

Monday, April 24, 2017

Introducing the interns........

Arrival of the Rookies...........

Hello everyone, the first rookie is here!My name is Emiel, I am a Belgian master student of the EMBC+ program (International Master in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation) and I am doing my two-month internship here in the Seychelles with MCSS.
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane, even before being able to admire the beauty of the island, was the crushing heat. As a real Belgian I am used to the cold and wet climate of Northern Europe and I thought the warm tropical climate of the Seychelles would be a welcome change… It really was after a few days, but I spend my first day on the island looking for shade and water.  Even when I went for a swim I found the water to be too warm to be refreshing and when I noticed I had no air conditioner yet in my room I was sure I was going to die that night.
Luckily, I did wake up the next day because it was a great day, just as all the days that followed after that! I was greeted warmly (so much warmth everywhere!) by all the staff, they are amazing people, and by the fresh AC in the office (heaven on earth!). After settling in I was immediately invited to dig up a nest that hatched the day before. It was the last nest on the beach, lucky me! We dug up the nest and found still a few baby turtles stuck while crawling out of the nest. After counting the eggs, we released them in the sea.The next day, my rookie buddy Tarek Bakkar arrived at the center. We spend the day monitoring beaches to look for turtle tracks and potential nests. These are only for the Green Turtle though as they nest year-round and the nesting season of the Hawksbill Turtle is over. Because of this there is not a lot of work for the turtle monitoring program so we help wherever we can with the other projects. Thursday, we cleared as much of the invasive Water Hyacinth as we could get out of an important Terrapin pond and set out some traps in some wetlands for Terrapin monitoring. Friday, we went to an extremely interesting symposium about Coral Reef resilience and rehabilitation with free food and drinks (that is always the best part). Overall, we had a very cool and  very instructive week and we are excited what the next 2 months will bring!

Emiel & Tarek deciding between the wetland & the sea!
Hey guys, my name is Tarek Bakkar and I am a Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Student (EMBC) from Germany doing an internship at MCSS for the next two month. I am participating in the turtle monitoring team. On my first day, we patrolled several beaches in the south of Mahé. Most beaches were very quiet in terms of anthropogenic disturbances as well as turtle tracks. Nevertheless, we found one Green Turtle track on the Grand Police Beach. Next to the vegetation we could find traces of sand disturbance but the female turtle did not seem to be happy with the location and went back to the ocean without laying any eggs.

My adventure just started and I am looking forward to the next month making new experience, see hopefully a lot of turtles and other wild life. I will keep you updated!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Turtle Nesting Season Update

Hi all..... it's been a while since our last blog.... Volunteers are out of sight....Turtles are out of sight & all is quite!

For this nesting season we have observed and recorded 394 turtle emergence and 176 nests....still a good number but definitely lower compared to the last nesting season.

We encountered our last turtle on the 13th of March... which is usually a bit late to have encounters but still always a delight to see the beautiful females nesting..... actually this particular female was encountered for the first time on January 13th on the same beach.
Shooting some last shots of the turtle
Heading back safely to sea

Fresh turtle track
With regards to poaching incidents...there is a significant decrease in the number of poached turtles recorded....and sadly number 3 was recorded over 3 weeks ago. While patrolling Anse my excitement I noticed the fresh turtle track on the beach and followed it up with caution.... I saw egg chamber 1 abandoned..... egg chamber 2 almost done...but.... the turtle seemed to have vanished into thin air!..... 

We searched everywhere in the bushes and no sign of a down track! The only apparent track were footprints and car Tyre marks close to where the turtle was..... after all the denials in my head and searching crazy for the turtle...I finally came to the obvious conclusion that the turtle had been poached!..... a beautiful up-track on the beach was all I had left from the beautiful Hawksbill turtle who had fallen victim to men's cruelty...

Abandoned egg chamber due to human interference
Anyway...April is here and soon we are expecting new students coming to join us for their internship with MCSS..... so stay tuned for some more updates from the rookies!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An amazing birds monitoring

Tuesday and Thursday are birds monitoring days.

There are a number of transects and set points through the Intendance wetland which need to be walked to count the species and number of birds.

Today, we have been very lucky to see three little moorhen chicks, not older than one month.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is a common wetland bird. They are native in Seychelles. You can find a lot of different kinds of

Moorhen in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Most of the times, each bird stays alone but during the nesting season the birds stay in couples to take care of their chicks. The female can lay 2 or 3 times per season, around 5 to 8 eggs. Often, they build their nest on the emerged vegetation or on the ground. When the chicks hatch, the parents both take care of their babies for one month. We could observe them walking on water lily leaves, feeding their babies.

Come to visit our Conservation center at the Banyan Tree and learn more about our wonderful birds!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Inka's adventure with MCSS comes to an end....

One month, two turtle encounters, and hundreds of hatchlings later, my volunteering time with MCSS has sadly come to an end. But what an amazing experience this has been! For my first turtle encounter I arrived just in time to see her lay the last of her 212 eggs. I’ve always had a lot of respect for animals and what they are capable of, but when you witness the effort these turtles have to go through to make their way up the beach, dig a nest, lay around 100-200 eggs, cover the nest and camouflage the area before returning to the ocean (and repeat this 2-3 times during one nesting season), your respect for them just grows immensely.

The same goes for the little ones, digging their way through the sand, walking along the beach surrounded by crabs ready to attack, and entering the wide ocean where more threats await. It is fascinating to watch them intuitively move towards the sea, how they speed up the closer they get, and how they conquer every footprint in the sand or rock.
During one of our hatchling rescues however, we found them stuck in a water hole and underneath one of the hotel villas. When turtles hatch during the night, they move towards the reflection of the moonlight on the ocean. However, when bright hotel lights are on, they can become disoriented and end up lost. One way to prevent this is to use red bulbs instead as the turtles cannot see this wavelength. This has been implemented by various hotels and hopefully the Banyan Tree Resort will follow suit. Once the hatchlings had been rescued, we placed them on the sand a couple of meters away from the ocean because this is important both for their personal development and so they can find their way back to the beach years later

On the same day as this rescue operation we noticed a Hawksbill turtle nesting on the beach. Since her nest was very close to the high tide line, we waited for her to finish and then relocated the egg clutch to prevent the nest from being flooded. This is a delicate process as the eggs should not be rotated and the nest conditions (including the order in which the eggs were laid) should be kept as similar as possible. A very interesting experience, both for us and the tourists on the beach.
There were also two special events during my time here. One was the National Protected Areas Day where conservation societies in the Seychelles come together to present their work to each other and the public. It was very interesting to learn about the different conservation efforts made across the islands and to meet such a large number of people involved, including Jeanne Mortimer. She has spent over 40 years studying turtles across the world, moved to the Seychelles in 1981 where she has contributed to local turtle protection as well as international research, and was awarded a “Lifelong Achievement Award” from the International Sea Turtle Society in 2016. It is mainly thanks to her efforts that the government and locals have changed their mindset, and the killing of turtles (common for their meat) has become illegal, resulting in high fines and prison charges. It was inspiring to meet someone with so much passion and dedication to turtle/nature conservation. The second event was World Wetland Day, for which we organized a tour around the beautiful Intendance wetland for guests staying at the Banyan Tree Resort. It is always nice to teach others about the work performed by MCSS and perhaps to inspire them to help preserve nature and care for animals.

My stay on Mahe Island has been amazing and I will definitely miss the turtles, people, stunning white sandy beaches and turquoise water. But now it is time to embark on a new adventure: volunteering with rhino conservation in Uganda!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Salome's experience so far...

Hi, my name is Salomé. I come from France. I'm 28 years old.
I'm a student in last year of biology bachelor. I'm doing an internship with MCSS for about 5 months.
I’m working on marine turtle project.  It's my first experience with the turtles and in Seychelles as well.
I always wanted work for the protection of wildlife, I took my time, and now I will do what I always wanted.

Restraining turtle for data collection
I will start with my first encounter with a hawksbill turtle. It was my first day, lucky girl! I was completely lost. You have to know that my English is very bad. So, I didn't understand anything that I heard. Suddenly, I just understood "turtle here”. Vanessa had received a call from the field assistants on the beach. We have a turtle there! Quickly, we took our materials and went to the beach. ….my internship had officially started!

It was an amazing day; she was so beautiful, incredible to see this turtle.  We went on patrols three days per week on the six main beaches in the south of Mahé. It was a good way to discover new beaches and some places where there is no one except you, the sea and the turtle! We saw lots of tracks, few turtles and we identified the new nests.
During the peaks of the season, I encountered six hawksbill turtles; I saw three of them laying the eggs.
Hawksbill turtle laying
When the turtle starts to lay you can make the measures and check if she's injured or if she's ok, as she is in a trance and once she has started laying the eggs she will not stop, so it is the perfect time to approach her for data collection. She lay between 100 and 200 eggs, sometimes one by one, sometimes three by three. When finished she covers the nest with the sand carefully. Her flippers are like a hand. Then camouflage her nest splashing sand everywhere….have to be careful during this step ….back off or you will easily be sand splashed :)
Up or down...?
The Rock climber!
As you know, they are critically endangered species, that's why we have to be careful with ecological impact. They need us.

When the laying season goes off peak, we are then busy checking the hatching of the nests. If you are lucky, you can see little hatchlings…

Rescuing disorientated hatclings