Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sebastian working in the wetlands :)

Hey everyone, my name is Sebastian and I am an Intern at the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles. I am from Germany, 24 years old, studying Environmental Sciences in the Netherlands.
I have spent 13 weeks at MCSS so far and seven more are to come.When I arrived in the Seychelles I started working on the AFCCP (Anse Forbans Community Conservation Program) and continued working on it throughout my internship. The AFCCP includes working with Terrapins, the Anse Forbans Community and some of their projects (e.g. Anse Capucins Hike) and the wetlands of Anse Forbans.

The office (Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation Center) where the team conducts research is located in the Banyan Tree resort at Anse Intendance in the South-West of Mahé. The team here is lovely and incredibly welcoming. The motto ‘One team – One dream’ was implemented and is now a solid part of the working environment here.

Figure 1: Anse Intendance
Sometimes there are classes coming to the Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation Center, ranging from primary schools to university level. Each of them will be given a tour through our center, which explains the projects that are worked on in and out of the center, followed by a wetland tour to experience our work in the wetlands firsthand. Vice versa we visit local schools and Seychelles University to give presentations in order to implement conservational knowledge in the educational system of the Seychelles.

When it comes to field work most of it is done in the wetlands of Anse Forbans, Anse Royale and Anse Intendance. Anse Forbans and Anse Royale are mainly for Terrapin trapping whereas Anse Intendance, next to Terrapin trapping, is also for Turtle and Bird monitoring as it includes not only wetlands, but a great beach for turtle nesting, too.
In 2016 the Anse Intendance beach was #2 in having the most turtle nests on Mahé.
Figure 2: Plastron of a Black Mud Turtle

Most of the work I have done here so far includes Terrapins. The purpose of the Terrapin trapping is to determine the amount of Terrapins that is there in the Seychelles (Mahé only). There are two species of Terrapins in the Seychelles; Black Mud turtle and Yellow Bellied turtle. The Yellow Bellied terrapin is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN list so it is important to determine how many of them are left.

Figure 3: Carapace of a Black Mud Turtle with nail polish
on it as identification mark

Once a Terrapin is caught the species and sex will be determined, they are weighed and measured and marked with nail polish on the carapace (Friendly way of tagging a terrapin). Everything will be noted down and also saved in the database. Then a picture of the Carapace and Plastron will be taken. The picture of the Plastron is going to be used for the database (local database of MCSS) of already captured Terrapins.  In case there is a recapture it will show the recorded Terrapin as the Plastron is always unique. After that process they are released back into the wetlands, in the same site where they were found, in order for them to continue following their natural behavior.

Time flies when you are having fun. I hope the next seven weeks are just as great as the ones that have already passed. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Felicitas learning Seychelles wildlife...

Time is just flying here and that’s only because it is so much fun to work here at MCSS in the awesome team at the Conservation and Rehabilitation Centre at the Banyan Tree Resort, located at Anse Intendance. 
The first three weeks have passed and I have already learned very much – for that I´m really grateful!
I´m 24 years old and I´m studying Biology with a focus on Ecology, Evolution and social Behavior in the 2nd semester in the Masters program at the University Constance, in Germany.
My work here at MCSS is quite diverse ranging from monitoring of Terrapins, Sea Turtles and Birds to cleaning the Wetlands and the vegetation near the sea. I am also involved in educational tasks for guests visiting the Centre or preparations of events e.g. in schools.
So far I have caught one Black Mud Terrapin, which was not identified yet – so I could choose a new name for him: “Liwo”.
Another nice experience was a workshop at the University about diseases of amphibians, their threats and potential improvements of problems. It was interesting to see how the different environmental groups work together. Furthermore we could already apply our newly learned skills at an amphibian excursion in Sans-Souci.
The next special event in which I participated was the 20th birthday of MCSS and the opening  of the first ex-situ coral gardening tanks in the Seychelles at the Le Meridian Fisherman's Cove.

I am looking forward to new experiences in the next 5 weeks!
A big thank you to the MCSS team for doing such a good work, for making the world a bit better! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sarah-Jane enjoying MCSS

I have been interning with MCSS for 3 weeks now, and I have just one left. The amazing people (best bosses ever!) here have made the time fly by. The other interns are a lot of fun to work with and make the time both in the field and in the office entertaining. 

We do most of our work out in the field and every day is different. The project leaders keep us busy with the tasks needed to keep the different projects running.

I joined the Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation project at the Banyan Tree Resort and our main tasks so far have been beach patrols, bird surveys and terrapin trapping. The beach patrols are a really important part of the work we do here, especially during the Hawksbill sea turtles nesting season – September to March. We collect data on the nesting beaches and also ensure that tourists and locals don’t interfere with the turtles. The bird surveys and terrapin trapping projects provide data on their populations. The terrapins that are caught are weighed, measured, marked with some pretty nail varnish and added to an identification database. They are always released the same day. There is only one animal permanently at the centre – Chichi the black mud terrapin who was kept for too long as a pet and now cannot be rehabilitated. Chichi has his own converted hot tub home and is spoilt with lots of fish treats. 

We are also currently trying to raise funds to expand the rehabilitation project for giant tortoises that have been kept in captivity as pets.

The MCSS team is incredible and they are doing amazing work in the Seychelles for conservation. 
I hope that I get a chance to come back again one day!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Carmen at MCSS :)

Hey everyone,

My name is Carmen and I am currently studying biology at the University of Freiburg. The internship at the Banyan Tree Turtle & Terrapin Project was the perfect opportunity for me to get some field experience and to figure out if I want to specialize in conservation for my masters program.

During my past 4 weeks with MCSS, I have learned a lot about the flora and fauna of the Seychelles and the conservation in general. My main project was focused on trapping and tracking the two endemic terrapin species in the surrounding wetlands of Anse Intendance to collect as much information as we can about the critically endangered yellow bellied mud turtle and the black mud turtle so that we can protect them.

Another big project I was working on was the bird monitoring program. I was collecting data about the habitats of the different species of birds and where they prefer to nest. I also figured out some new tracks for the monitoring program with the other intern Nicola so that we get a better overview of the variety of the different habitats for birds on the Seychelles.
Picture 1: Night Heron

Furthermore, I had the chance to join on some beach patrols and check for nesting sea turtles or tracks. Unfortunately, as the nesting season has just started in September I did not see a nesting sea turtle but we already found two tracks of green turtles and another one of a Hawksbill. Yesterday, we had to relocate the nest of the green turtle because it was too close to the high tide line.

Picture 2: Nest Relocation
The day before, we went to do a presentation at the primary school in Pointe-Larue. It was lovely to see how interested the kids were in our conservation work and that they really enjoyed our visit and got involved with us. One of our most important goals of the Banyan Tree Turtle & Terrapin Project is to teach the kids awareness to save and protect the very unique environment in the Seychelles. It is forbidden by law to keep turtles as pets since 1994 but we still have some big issues with this as well as turtle poaching.

Unfortunately, today is my last day of work with MCSS and all that remains is for me to say thank you to all the other interns and staff members that I could be part of such a great team and that you made my stay the way it was. I felt very welcomed and I am more than happy that I made the decision to do my internship here. Thanks again to everyone for such an amazing time and I hope we will meet at some point again!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Terrapin breeding with Nicola

Hey, my name is Nicola. I am a 25-year-old vet student from Austria and I am currently doing one of my final internships at the Rescue and Rehabilitation center at the banyan tree resort. 

At University I did the special education module for conservation medicine so this internship is the perfect opportunity for me to round off my knowledge. 

In the two weeks, I have been here I have already learned a lot about the different aspects of a conservation sector. Not only does MCSS take care of the animals, they also map out the habitats, check out possible threats to them and raise awareness within the local community. 

Yesterday a group of school kids visited the center and we talked to them about the wetlands, terrapins and sea turtles. After the presentations, we carried out bird monitoring and tried to show them how important conservation work is. 

One of the two species of terrapins you can find here, the Seychelles yellow belly mud turtle is an endemic species and is critically endangered. That's why I am currently working on a proposal to start a captive breeding program.
For the captive breeding program, I have to figure out what the terrapins need and how many individuals are necessary for successful reproduction. 
I am comparing them with other species to see how they have been bred, but it is difficult to develop a plan because so little is known about terrapins. But I'll figure it out as I go. 

What I like most about MCSS is that every volunteer gets their own project in their special field of interest and the staff always tries to work together and help where they can. 
Right from the start, I felt welcome here and I am looking forward to my next two weeks working with this great team! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Spencer in the team

Hello all I am the new intern………. Spencer!

Over the next 9 weeks, I am set to willingly commit my mind body and soul to the Anse Forbans Community Conservation Project (AFCCP). As someone who is wholeheartedly passionate about wildlife and habitat preservation, this represents itself as an exciting opportunity to put into practice everything I have learnt through my academic endeavours; and to gain valuable hands-on experience.

As someone with a freshwater background, the opportunity to work in the wetlands of South Mahé is something that I am very keen to get stuck into. However; as I wish to broaden my areas of expertise, being able to work in the mangroves and coral reefs that surround Anse Forbans is one of the major factors of why I applied to MCSS and the AFCCP project.

The team here has been unbelievably friendly and welcoming. Finding the perfect balance between independent work and guidance whilst out in the field or working on new software back in the office. My somewhat short amount of time already spent here has flown by, and suddenly 9 weeks may feel like too short a time.

One team, one dream.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hello Beth!!

Hi all!

My name is Beth, I currently study Marine Biology at the University of Southampton so the Banyan Tree Turtle and Terrapin Project was the perfect place for me to get some field experience. Since joining MCSS last week, I feel like I am already a true member of the team, everyone has been so friendly and welcoming.

Picture 1: Beth and our terrapin Truck at the WCRC
During my first week, I have been carrying out bird surveys (my favourite bird so far is the Seychelles Blue Pigeon), sea turtle patrols, daily terrapin catches and talking to members of the public informing them about what goes on at the centre whilst making descriptive tags for the exhibition room. It has been a busy first week!

On my first day, we caught 6 terrapins in one catch! We brought them all back to the centre for a health check-up where we weighed and measured all individuals. We identified them using photo-identification (to discover their unique name) and discovered one had never been caught before! I had the privilege of giving him a name, after a lot of thought I went with Buzz.

Picture 2: Buzz 
Unfortunately it is not turtle nesting season but it is still vital to check all the beaches weekly for any signs of Hawksbill or Green turtles. I have learned a lot already about how to identify sea turtle tracks, find a nest and how to make sure she successfully lays her eggs and gets back into the ocean unharmed. I am gaining more independence in carrying out these tasks so my confidence is increasing daily. I can’t wait to see what the next 5 weeks will bring! 

Monday, July 31, 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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Droning Adventure!!

This week, the MCSS Banyan Tree team started their first droning adventure. 
Accessible satellite imagery of Google maps, GIS and Google earth is either outdated or holds insufficient image processing quality. As we wanted to analyze the current hydrological situation, habitat types, invasive plant species distribution and vegetation status of the wetland area at Anse Intendance, we had to create or own, high definition map of the study site Anse Intendance. 
Currently, drones are a cutting edge technology and are mainly used by civilians, media, engineers and researchers. Drone based imagery and video material is mostly used for aerial photography, mapping, surveillance, transport and filming. 
The application of drones opens new, cheap and quick research possibilities such as the surveillance of inaccessible areas and shy animals, the production of 3D maps and vegetation maps, the creation of digital surface or terrain models, anti-poaching controls, animal counts, sustainable land use management techniques and even for marine conservation measures. 

The Anse Intendance wetland was and will be mapped through a Phantom 4 pro drone which out-competes our old drones through an extremely long battery life of 20 minutes, an automatic mapping application which strongly facilitates the whole mapping progress, the automatic recording of GPS points and a camera which has a resolution of 20 megapixel. The drone was and will be flown at a height of 80 m and with a front\side picture overlap of 60/70 % respectively. The high resolution and quality of the acquired orthomosaic will allows us to define different habitat types and spot invasive plant species. This information is crucial for any restoration work which includes for example native plant nurseries and invasive species removal. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Milli's final blog

Milli's final blog 

Hello again! 
Another week has passed and sadly, my work experience is officially over.  
Just as predicted, there was a lot going on in the second week too;  
On Monday I visited Cerf Island to take a look at Savi's project. After the beach cleaning he taught the volunteers and me about corals, reefs, rays, seaweed and loads of other interesting facts. Afterwards, we observed sea urchins, sea stars, fish and the coral nursery on the snorkel trail and went for a little hike to the cemetery and the viewpoint, from which we had a beautiful view of St. Anne's, Ile Moyenne, Long and Round. 
Back on Mahé, terrapin traps were set up at different sites in the Anse Forbans wetland, which we checked every day, but there were no terrapins caught until Friday. Three black mud individuals had been captured by our traps, who will be measured for identification today (Monday 10th).

(The black mud terrapins that crawled into our traps on Friday) 

(One of the caught terrapins) 

On Wednesday I joined Vanessa for the Turtle patrol, but it's currently not the season for Hawksbill turtles so there were no tracks to be seen. It was educational nevertheless, because she told me about the turtle's nesting behavior, how to tell Green Turtles and Hawksbills apart by their tracks and experienced cases of poaching. 
The rest of the week consisted mainly of checking the traps, working on a new website for MCSS and starting with my big school report. 
All in all - even though it was only for a far too short time, I learned a lot about turtles, terrapins, wetlands, corals, how to use drones to create maps and gained more experience than I could have at any other workplace – I am absolutely happy and pleased with my choice of school internship!