I love nature and among all the flora and fauna, sea turtles are my favourite animal. And I am really glad that I am able to learn so much more about them here during my stay on North Island, Seychelles. Starting from the first day, I had the opportunity to learn how to spot their tracks and to determine the positions of their nesting place. I also learnt the importance of how fragile their life is and how susceptible they are to both predators and nature. I’ve worked with the Environment team to translocate a nest of turtle eggs to higher ground so that they would not be swept away by the tide, and I got to see turtle eggs for the very first time! Cool! However, it was also really sad to see many of the eggs had fallen prey to the crabs.
Beach patrolling is one on the to-do things on the work schedule. During this time, we have to see if there are new sightings of turtles which could have come up to shore to lay their eggs as well as pick up as much litter on the beach as possible as they pose a threat to the marine creatures. And I would say that this job may not be as easy as it sounds, as it can get pretty tough walking under the scorching sun. However, it does have its rewards! I was blessed to catch the moment where a group of baby Hawksbill turtles hatched and they were making their way to the open sea during my fourth day of doing beach patrol (21 Jan @ Section F of the West Beach). The sight was simply magical.
During my stay at North Island, Seychelles, I had a great time interacting with the people from the Environment Department. Through my daily interaction with Elliot, CJ and Tarryn, I come to appreciate and better understand the role of being an environment conservationist on this island.
The work of an environment conservationist is really encompassing. It includes turtle patrolling on the beach, hunting for food for the tortoises, ensuring the birds have sufficient food by planting the right kind of vegetation on the island, beach profiling, careful removal of ‘hairy caterpillars’, monitoring the presence of the different types of animals (both land and marine) around the island and etc. In addition to these, another important aspect of this job includes educating the people as well as guests on how their actions can either positively or negatively impact the environment, so as to ensure the sustainability of the island.
This picture captures Elliot measuring and tagging one of the Hawksbill turtles which came up to shore to nest (Nest No. 29 since the beginning of this year!). The tag number on this turtle shows us that she was tagged on North Island in 2004! Her reappearance shows that she is still returning to North Island to lay her eggs after all these time. By measuring her now, we can compare it to her original measurements which tell us how much she has grown in the last 12 years.
I understand from Tarryn that the Hawksbill turtles have been doing really well this year based on the number of sightings that we have of them on North Island so far! To have the sea turtles coming to North Island to nest so often and with their numbers increasing year after year, I can only say that the conservation program that is happening here on North Island must be doing something right to see this positive impact downstream.
Throughout my stay on North Island, Seychelles, I was introduced to a term called ‘Shopping Boat’! This actually means barges bringing in goods to the island. And with the arrival of goods, I was introduced to another important process which has been put in place on the island – I was initiated into the Rat Room! The ‘Rat Room’ is a secured room where all goods (groceries, boxes of equipment etc.) which have just arrived on the island are sent to, and the team from the Environment Department carefully inspects all goods to ensure there are no rats in the midst of the goods. Rat baits are placed all around the island, including in this room to catch any rats if they accidentally reached the island.
The rationale for this highly stringent exercise is to ensure that no rats are re-introduced into this little paradise, as they would endanger the indigenous species. It seemed that a great amount of conservation work had been put in place since the last decade to eradicate the rats which used to run amok on this island and it is indeed impressive to hear that the efforts have paid off with North Island achieving a ‘rat free’ status in 2005.
This, being my first time on North Island, I am indeed impressed to see how well the island had been restored and this has led to many awesome flora and fauna thriving here. I managed to capture a picture of a cute baby white tailed tropic bird, almost ready to leave the nest – a species of bird which has benefitted from the removal of the rats which used to prey on them.