The turtle monitoring programme on North Island has been running for several years. The three beaches of North Island – East Beach, West Beach and Petite Anse – are patrolled daily for turtle tracks by members of the Environment Team and trained volunteers. In June 2014, a total of 16 confirmed/assumed nests were recorded, bringing the total nests laid this year to 126.
In addition to recording turtle tracks, two green turtles were seen on the beaches. Both staff and guests were able to watch the females lay their eggs, a sight which is quite a marvel! This was the first turtle sighting for some of the staff who have been working on the island for a few years. Both female green turtles were very meticulous in choosing where they wanted to lay, digging several body pits before finding a location that they were satisfied with. The entire process from when they left the ocean to when they laid their eggs and returned to the ocean took between four and six hours. Not only was this very special to witness, but both females were also tagged with unique stainless steel tags, which will allow us to identify individuals and thus gain a better understanding of their movement patterns in the future.
We have been fortunate in the last months to have come across four of the very elusive Seychelles black mud terrapins residing on North Island. Their cryptic nature and the locations of the three marshes on North Island result in very few sightings of these creatures. We were thus pleasantly surprised when we stumbled across two individuals sunning themselves on the side of one of the marshes. We were only able to capture one, as the other individual made a hasty retreat back into the water. This particular individual had been previously sighted and follow-up morphometric measurements and its weight were recorded.
Please have a look at the safari album:
Despite it being the dry season in the Seychelles, the intermittent rain over the last few months has resulted in terrapins being sighted outside of their marsh environment. Two additional individuals were found on the roads by staff members and were established to be juveniles due to their small sizes. These sightings in particular are of great importance as they verify that the terrapins are indeed breeding on North Island.
A favourite amongst both staff and guests to the island are the Seychelles white-eyes. Their beautiful melodious call announces their presence long before you see them. Different family groups are seen regularly across the island, many of which contain un-ringed, very inquisitive juveniles who will happily perch on a branch no less than two metres away from us. The presence of these un-ringed individuals is wonderful news for the island as it indicates that the population is breeding successfully despite the high numbers of Indian mynas. Within the next few months we hope to obtain a new estimate of population size and to ring the currently un-ringed individuals to allow us to properly record territory and association data. Data recorded in September and October 2013 indicated no less than eight territories on the island with the majority occurring on the plateaux.
The Aldabra giant tortoise population appears to be doing well. A new baby tortoise was found on one of the roads and was placed in the pen to protect it from vehicle traffic. The pen was constructed to protect baby tortoises from the golf ‘buggies’ that drive around on the island and only individuals found in and around the road network are placed in the pen. The pen currently contains 13 individuals, two of which will be released in the next couple of months as they are reaching a size bigger than a coconut. They are released at this size as they are more visible and hopefully people will see them easily on the roads. Morphometric (shell) measurements of the baby tortoises resumed in June, and will continue every month in an attempt to determine their growth rates.
July 2014 started with an exciting event. The Environmental Team was called to the Staff Canteen as one of the female Aldabra giant tortoises was digging a nest in the road. On arrival we found the female halfway through with the digging phase of the nest constructing procedure. She appeared to be completely oblivious to everyone, and focused all her attention in trying to make the perfect nest cavity. This provided an excellent opportunity for the staff to witness this special occasion and take photographs. According to the staff, this particular female lays her eggs at this location on a yearly basis. The female meticulously scooped out the soil, using her hind legs as shovels. Unfortunately, the location she chose to make her nest was right above a water pipe, which she soon reached. At this stage we thought she would abandon the nest, however to our amazement she decided to lay her eggs. We watched in amazement as she carefully laid nine large, pearly white eggs.
The nest is currently fenced off using road cones and string. We will leave the nest for approximately two weeks to give the eggs time to harden, before relocating the nest to a safer, more suitable location.
By CJ & Tarryn Havemann