News From The Field – VOL IV 2022


Vaavoshi sea turtle festival

Vaavoshi sea turtle festival parade

On October 31st, we held our first multi-atoll sea turtle festival in the Maldives called ‘Vaavoshi’, meaning sea turtle in Dhivehi. The festival took place simultaneously across eight different atolls in partnership with local schools. The aim of the festival is to spread awareness about key marine habitats and ecosystems, the critical role that sea turtles play in maintaining these habitats, and the threats faced by marine life in the country. Across schools, the students took part in a variety of educational activities, including talks about sea turtles, video and poster competitions, beach clean-ups, and parades where students marched together advocating for protection of sea turtles and their habitats. We reached a total of 2,177 students on festival day, and an additional 1,606 community members, making the festival a huge success – one that truly captured the spirit of finding community in conservation.

Sea Turtle Spotting in Oman

GM044, a green sea turtle from Oman

The last quarter observed the greatest number of sea turtle sightings for the year 2022 in Oman. October saw a record breaking 57 confirmed sightings of 37 individuals, including 23 new sea turtles. This total was then immediately beaten by the massive 71 confirmed sightings of 34 different sea turtles across the month of November. However, there were only nine new sea turtles added to the database. This set December up with a tough act to follow. There were only 25 confirmed sightings of 15 individuals with only two new sea turtles. The reduced number of sightings in December could possibly be a result of the algal blooms that appear in the the Gulf of Oman around this time of year. The water temperature also dropped to 24 degrees Celsius, which may have also encouraged the sea turtles to seek warmer waters.

drone-Led sea turtle rescue in Kenya

Green sea turtle rescued in Kenya

In November, our Infield Supervisor, Jenni Choma, worked with Mike Mwangómbe of the Kenya Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Group to conduct a pilot drone study in the lagoon area of the Diani-Chale Marine Reserve (DCMR). In five days, our team was able to survey 15 km of DCMR and record sightings of over 20 sea turtles, some  baby reef sharks, an eagle ray, and a pod of dolphins. However, our most action packed day came when while flying the drone, we spotted a green turtle entangled in a long fishing line. We put out a quick call for help and two local fishermen immediately set out to the ocean in their boat and rescued the sea turtle. The sea turtle, which turned out to be a juvenile green, had thankfully not sustained any injuries and therefore was released quickly. The success of our pilot drone study strengthened our resolve to acquire a drone to help us with our sea turtle monitoring efforts. Coincidentally, with Giving Tuesday right around the corner, we decided to initiate a fundraising effort to purchase a drone and, after a week of social media campaigning, we were successful in raising the required funds! Thank you to everyone who donated on Giving Tuesday! Stay tuned for for drone monitoring updates later in the year!

sea Turtles struggle with beach erosion in Seychelles

Sea turtle tracks along the erosion cliff at Seychelles

The problem of beach erosion on the main nesting beach Grand Anse at Felicité Island continues unabated. The beach is subject to longshore drift, causing sand to be transported from one side of the beach to the other depending on the monsoon season. In Seychelles, the peak hawksbill turtle nesting season coincides with the beginning of the north-west monsoon, causing sea turtle’s to lose a significant patch of the beach to sea erosion. Sea turtles are struggling to climb up the erosion cliff, and many individuals are laying their eggs in an area that will be lost to erosion. To counter this, our sea turtle biologist has established a safe turtle zone, where all these nest are relocated to. So far ten nests had to be relocated, with the permission of the Seychelles Bureau of Standards.

Female sea turtle nesting in vegetation

Some female turtles, who were able to scale the erosion cliff, laid their nests high up in the vegetation, safe from the flooding and erosion.  However, it will be a real battle for the turtle hatchlings to reach the ocean when they emerge. Our sea turtle biologist might have to build a ramp for the hatchlings to reach the shore as the erosion will result in a steep cliff by then. We will keep you updated about the success of this approach in the coming months.

Dead Sea Turtles in Pakistan

Deceased green sea turtle in Pakistan

We have had a bittersweet last three months of 2022 in Pakistan. While we were able to record quite a few nesting events on Hawke’s Bay beach, we were also disheartened to find deceased turtles wash up regularly on the beaches and floating at sea. In November, two dead juvenile green turtles were spotted by our team at Manora Beach and Hawke’s Bay. In the same month, an adult green turtle and an olive ridley were also found dead off of Manora Beach. While we cannot ascertain the cause of death for these sea turtles, possibilities range from injuries caused due to bycatch to entanglement in ghost gear. We hope to be able to discover the cause of these deaths in the new year, and develop a plan of action to counter such instances.

news from the Rescue Centre

Gus being carried to the water for release

Our Rescue Centre had a relatively quiet end of the year. We have only had one new arrival, Kandu, a hawksbill, who came to us mid-December. However, we have had quite a few releases: Uno and Gus were successfully released from Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu while Pepe was transferred to Marine Savers to finish her recovery in a sea cage. After a few weeks of dive training, Pepe too was released! Meanwhile, Lakia and Naseeb both underwent surgery to remove one of their front flippers, as they were unsalvageable due to the extent of their injuries. While Lakia recovered successfully, Naseeb had to go in for another surgery. He sadly did not recover from the anaesthetic. His post-mortem showed a huge underlying systemic infection that would not have been treatable. We were devastated by his loss, but were relieved to know that he was no longer suffering.

We hope you enjoyed this quick snapshot of our activities from the last quarter. To get a detailed location based update, read the full report here.