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.