Wednesday, December 31, 2014


This month has been very busy. In the first week we managed to catch two female Yellow-Bellied Mud Turtles (YBM), P. castanoides.  Since then we have caught more YBM, confirming their presence in this area which is reassuring as previous estimates have suggested that their numbers in Seychelles might be less than 200. We also managed to catch two terrapins in one trap! One Black Mud Turtle (BM) and one YM. The Chief of Engineering Boniface Lim came to join us in our celebration of this new record.

Unfortunately we also found a dead BM this month. After performing a necropsy we were unable to determine a cause of death, but gender was confirmed as female when we found eggs, 19 in total. While it’s sad that the clutch was lost, it does confirm that we have a breeding population, which is great news!

December also marked the start of our solo daily turtle patrols on Intendance beach. We have had 6 turtle encounters and 15 nests. The expected hatching date came and went for one of the older unconfirmed nests with no sign of movement so two weeks after the due date we dug up the nest site. We did not find any sign of eggs or hatchlings and in area such as Intendance with lots of beach traffic it is likely that the signs were misread or the female was interrupted during nesting.

Now that the Turtle Patrol team is able to monitor the other beaches more regularly, we have discovered that poaching activities are higher than previously thought. Earlier this month, the Turtle Patrol team dealt with three poaching incidents – regrettably, one of these cases was a green turtle that had already been poached near Petit Police.

But luckily, the increased awareness of our role here is having a positive influence on tourists, guests and hotel staff. We had a few guests join us on turtle patrol and they were fortunate enough to have an encounter.

Additionally, staff members have been informing us more and more about their sightings and spreading the word to tourists and guests alike about our work here. As a result, several people have come up to us during patrol to give us valuable sightings information and on Tuesday one member of staff brought us a terrapin he found on the road.

The centre is staring to come together, all of the rooms have been painted and our prep room is almost finished! Our pumps our awaiting clearance in Customs and so we should be able to start our breeding program in early 2015. We are however missing a few vital bits of equipment – including a fridge/freezer, a workbench (ideally a stainless steel table) and necropsy equipment. Donations are always welcome!

The Banyan Tree Conservation Team hopes you all had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy and safe New Year!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Banyan Tree Hosts New MCSS Project

At the beginning of November we (Dr Imogen Webster and Rachel Pool) officially began the new MCSS project entitled “Management of Turtle-Human Interactions and Turtle Rehabilitation” at the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort.

So we finally moved into our satellite base camp this month. Soon the Turtle and Terrapin Rehabilitation Centre will be up and running – ready for guests to visit! The centre is an integral part of the new project. One of aims includes setting up a breeding program for native terrapins found in the Intendance wetland area. There are two species, Pelusios subniger parietalis and Pelusios castanoides intergularis, both of which are classified as Critically Endangered. To determine the size of the population, we’ve been setting up terrapin traps in the wetland for the past month. We are proud to say that we have caught several Pelusios subniger otherwise known as Black Mud Turtles. One terrapin in particular, named “Happy”, was even caught in the trap two days in a row but at two completely different sites – raising some interesting questions about the movement of this species.

Once we have a rough idea of the population size in the area, we hope to start the breeding program using these recycled Jacuzzis donated by Banyan Tree Seychelles.
Jacuzzis in front of the centre

Another of the project aims includes rehabilitating the Intendance wetland, as this marshy area provides a critical habitat for the terrapins. While the management details are being worked out, us members of the Conservation Team have been trying to do our part by clearing the duckweed and other invasive plant species from some of the smaller ponds.

But we’re not only working with terrapins, we’re also working with their somewhat larger relatives – the sea turtles. We have now intensified the frequency of our turtle patrols on Intendance beach, therefore allowing the Turtle Team to increase their anti-poaching activities on other beaches. Another benefit to the centre is that it will be the first wildlife rehabilitation centre in all of Seychelles. Any injured turtles will be taken care of at our facility and released into the wild when possible.

We hope that once the centre is finished we will be able to take some school groups for visits and find a way of improving community involvement, perhaps by selling local goods. We look forward to keeping you up-to-date with our project. Continue following our blog to find out more!