DSKL saves a Hawksbill Turtle

5 07 2010

It was the perfect day for snorkelling for the students of Deutsche Schule Kuala Lumpur on Pulau Tioman, not a cloud in the sky and the sun in our eyes as the song goes. However, as the students swam towards the coastal mangroves of Tulai, something appeared to be floating in the waters right in their paths. It was an illegal fishing net 7m long, strategically positioned just outside the mangroves to capture fish returning to the reef with the tides. The area 2 nautical miles around Pulau Tioman is designated a Marine Park and Tulai falls within that radius and hence no fishing should be done there.

“There’s a turtle, there’s a turtle! Oh no is it dead?” Jule Zuber of DSKL exclaimed as she gently lifted a flipper, having spotted the carapace floating among the net. A gorgeous juvenile hawksbill turtle about 35cm across had been entangled. Thankfully, this little guy was entangled at the surface and did not drown. In fact, the distressed turtle responded to Jule’s probing with futile little finning motions against the thick tangle of the net.

Biologist Ling fetched a knife and together with the help of the kids and biologist Jana, managed to cut the poor exhausted turtle loose and return it to Mother Nature’s embrace, amidst cheers from the students of DSKL

The fishing net was brought back to the boat and with the help of DSKL kids, two crabs, still very much alive, were released as well.

 

 

Hawksbill turtles have been hunted extensively for their shells which make attractive tortoise-shell jewellery, brushes, eyeglass frames and rings. In some parts of the world such as China and Japan, the hawksbill turtle is also eaten as a delicacy. So badly decimated are the hawksbills that these turtles are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Fortunately for this juvenile hawksbill turtle, it lives to see another day thanks to the alert students of DSKL.

Ling





Green Turtle Nests at Melina Beach!

29 03 2010

On the night of the 24th March, EFT staff said their “Good nights” and “sleep wells” to St. Joseph’s Institute International School at Melina Beach and headed down the beach towards the staff house. Minutes later a wide-eyed and out of breath Ling ran back to the resort panting “TURTLE! NESTING! TURTLE!”

She was a Green Turtle already halfway through digging her nest, and we all kept a safe distance away. In the silence of the night all we could hear were the waves and the sound of sand hitting the sea pandan tree as she made her nest. Using a red torch, we kept an eye on her progress. When she had finished laying, and was burying her eggs under copious amounts of sand Ligia, Rich and Sam measured her carapace. It was a dangerous job – the speed of the sand projected by her flippers is extremely harmful to the pores! And though the three have been picking sand out of their ears and hair ever since, it was worth it. Her carapace was a massive 103cm in length and 88cm wide!

SJII students were woken from their beauty sleep to watch her return to the sea, but this was a thorough mother they had to wait as she dug a “pit” or false nest – this deters predators that may be after her protein-rich eggs. It was declared unanimously as worth the wait as everyone got to see her make her speedy return to the sea. We underestimate female turtles. This green made a weighty ascent up to the top of the beach, dug a nest, laid her eggs, dug a fake nest, rearranged the sand in the supra-littoral zone, and still had the energy to make a swift and graceful exit that one would expect from something half her size!

Back to the big ol' blue. Photo by Jeffrey Kong| Asian Geographic

A silent audience. Photo by Jeffrey Kong| Asian Geographic

We were lucky enough to have Asian Geographic Features Editor Jeffrey Kong accompanying SJII, and he took a couple of reference shots for ID purposes. Even he was surprised when he had to keep up with the turtle to get a shot! We want to thank Jeffrey for documenting the turtle, and our immediate relocation of the 119 eggs that make up nest 67 – the first of 2010!

One egg, two egg, three egg, four. Photo by Jeffrey Kong| Asian Geographic

So ladies and gentlemen, the nesting season of 2010 has officially begun! Lets hope that it is as successful as last year! Thanks to all the schools so far for their kind donations, especially to HKIS for helping to build this years hatchery 🙂 Photo’s of this to follow soon!

First nest of the season. Photo by Jeffrey Kong| Asian Geographic

Happy nesting!

Sam





Hey June…

3 07 2009

The season hasn’t slowed down for us, the end of June brought 5 more Green nests, and 1 more Hawksbill, as well as 115 more hatchlings!

A Hawksbill Hatchling

To celebrate the activity we’ve had this year, and as a big thank you to all our students and guests, we’ve put together this video of the highlights of the past few months! Enjoy!





What a week!

14 06 2009

This week has been the busiest our hatchery has ever experienced! Our very first nest put out 6 more Green hatchlings on the 4th and 5th of June! And during the excavation of the nest we discovered a Siamese turtle that didn’t make it. This specimen had two heads, a distorted body and three hind flippers!

The second nest of the year, that was buried by students from the Australian International School Singapore (Green Group) started hatching on the 3rd of June and by the 6th of June we had released 90 Green hatchlings. We have one blind albino hatchling, fondly nicknamed Casper, who is proving to be a strong soul; a fighter despite it’s genetic in adequacies, although without the aid of camouflage or sense of vision, we don’t expect him to survive in the wild.

Casper

When this nest was excavated we discovered one more hatchling, fighting to emerge from its egg, we kept it over night to see if it could finish the job. With no change after 24 hours – we helped it out the eggs to find that its carapace (shell) hadn’t opened out fully, giving it a little bit of a hunchback appearance. Despite this, it was fighting fit when we released it, bombing down the beach at full speed, and heading straight out to sea!

Green from Nest 40

Just after midnight on the 7th of June, 39 Green hatchlings emerged from our 4th nest of the season. We released them all together at dawn.

During the excavation another nest on the 9th June, a lone green from the above nest surprised us with a stealth like entrance onto the sand. We released it immediately, and concluded that it must be a female, evident from its lack of direction sense. It zigzagged up and down the beach, whilst a group of girls from Raffles Girls School Singapore (RGS) cheered it on! A little bit confused, upon reaching the water, it made several, comical, returns to the beach, before zooming off into the sunset!

Green Hatchling just after emerging

That same night, another Green from the same nest popped up, followed by 75 healthy Hawksbills from the 3rd nest of the year (Also buried by AIS – Thanks guys!)! It was a textbook emergence, with the sand erupting almost non-stop with hatchlings, so fast that our staff had a real workout trying to keep up! At dawn the next day, RGS students woke up early to help release them all, and stand guard against the Ghost Crabs and Red-Eyed Reef Crabs that were eyeing up the little ones!

RGS Releasing Hawksbill Hatchlings at dawn.

Hawksbill Hatchling

Over the next few days, a handful of Hawkbills and Greens from already hatched nests appeared, giving all the students and guests a great chance to see the first steps of these hatchlings. This year we have released 306 hatchlings from 4 nests. We know that these turtles have a tough fight to survive to adulthood – but we hope that by protecting them during the first stage of their lives we chip away at the daunting 1/1000 chance of them reaching reproductive maturity!





Full to bursting!

18 05 2009

Since our last post we’ve had six new nests including three Hawksbill nests! This brings the total for 2009 up to 8 and completely filling up the hatchery funded by GEMS World Academy Dubai, and built by Hong Kong International School students.

MBR Turtle Hatchery with our nests so far...

This brings our total number of eggs this year up to 813!! The first nests are due to hatch any day now, so keep an eye out for updates!





Ready, Set….GO!

27 04 2009

It’s all kicking off at Melina Beach – since our last post we’ve been so busy there hasn’t even been time to update the blog! Ecofieldtrips is running at full throttle and Australian International School Singapore students have taken over Melina Beach Resort for the last few weeks. The timing could not have been more perfect, we’ve had an abundance of nests delivered to the hatchery! Most of the students were lucky enough to watch the egg relocations, and some even did their part in burying them!

AIS Student burying an egg in our hatchery

Ecofieldtrips have also added another activity to their Turtle Conservation programme – A nest digging competition!!! After learning more about the biology and conservation of Marine Turtles – the students have to dig their very own nest (they, of course, may lay eggs if they wish) and fashion the mother “sand” turtle next to it! This has proved a fantastic activity and we are blown away by the enthusiam and creativity of the students!

Karen Chen demonstrating how to dig a nest

Sand Turtle with Nest