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!