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Sea Turtle Monitoring - Nesting 2018
BlogSea Turtle Monitoring

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Monitoring

Sea Turtle Monitoring - Nesting 2018

On a Monday evening, the Turtle Monitoring volunteers took turns patrolling one of the beaches where turtles often come ashore to lay. Unfortunately, in recent years, the top of this beach (the best place for turtles to lay eggs as they will be safe from high tides) has become overgrown with invasive grass, making it very difficult for them to dig their nest. During the patrol, a large hawksbill turtle came ashore. This female had been seen on the beach the previous day attempting, and failing, to nest amongst the grass.

Once ashore, she again headed for the grass at the top of the beach where she tried to several times to dig. Concerned about the potential for her to dump her eggs if she was unable to nest again, Turtle Monitoring staff and volunteers decided to assist her. Commando crawling on the ground, volunteers were able slowly and quietly get into place behind her, out of sight. Being careful not to disturb her, volunteers were able to remove the grass and roots whilst she dug. Turtles have extremely powerful flippers so volunteers were showered with sand, dirt and grass during this task. Once the hole reached approximately 70cm, she stopped digging and began to lay her eggs. Turtle Monitoring volunteers were able to lay just centimetres behind her and watching this amazing moment.


Once her laying was complete, she began to fill in her nest hole. Whilst she was filling her hole, volunteers took the opportunity to measure the length and width of her carapace (shell). She was an impressive 88cm long and 78cm wide (including the curve of her shell). This is the safest stage at which to measure a nesting turtle as they are intent on their work and hard to distract. After the hole was filled, she dragger herself back down the beach and returned to the ocean. Unfortunately, the grass surrounding the nest would prevent the hatchlings from being able to dig their way out after their 60-day incubation period. The decision was made by staff to move the nest to a more suitable location.

The Turtle Monitoring volunteers prepped a new nest location nearby by digging a wide hole of a similar depth to the original nest. They also readied the transfer bucket (a wide, shallow bucket with holes at the bottom to allow for drainage) by filling it partially with sand. The nest was then gently dug up, and the eggs carefully removed one by one and placed into the transfer bucket. The eggs were carefully counted as they were transferred to the bucket, with a total of 138 eggs collected. The eggs were then covered over with sand and dirt from the original nest. The entire bucket was the placed into the prepared hole and the hole filled in.

A structure to prevent the disturbance of the nest by feral animals was constructed out of bamboo and placed over the nest. Staff and volunteers celebrated the success of the delicate task and returned back to camp filthy but thrilled. Hawksbill turtles are one of the key species focused on by the Turtle Monitoring Program due to their status as critically endangered. It was a privilege to help protect these eggs and their mother. The great news is that we have now received permission to clear the grass and return the beach to its original sandy state, perfect for turtle nesting!

If you want to help protect and conserve sea turtles then check out our new Volunteer Sea Turtle Monitoring Program for more information!


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BlogMarine Conservation

The Importance Of Seashells


Why Are Seashells Important?

Seashells are crucial components in coastal and marine ecosystems as they have multiple functions. Perhaps the most obvious, natural uses for shell are the homes they make for hermit crabs, whose bodies curl comfortably around the interior of spiral shaped seashells. However as more trash makes its way to the ocean and surrounding coastlines and as fewer shells are available for these animals, hermit crabs are forced to find alternative housing. It is becoming increasingly common to find hermit crabs living in toxic plastic ware such as bottle and toothpaste caps which do not fit their body shape and make for a very uncomfortable and dangerous living.

Hermit crabs are not the only ones who benefit an abundance of shells; seashells provide home or attachment for algae, seagrass, sponges and many other microorganisms and microorganisms. Animals such as decorator crabs and octopus use shells as camouflage and many fish use shells as hiding places to avoid predators.

Seashells also aid in beach stabilisation and create important sediment. Understanding where shells come from adds more meaning their vital role in the ecosystem. Shells are the discarded exoskeletons of molluscs, mostly made form calcium carbonate, which in many coastal habitats dissolved slowly and is recycled back into the ocean.


In comparison to the billions of years that marine ecosystems have existed, the removal of seashells from coastlines and the ocean is a relatively new practice. Despite humans (Homo genus) having existed for 2.5 million years, the earliest evidence we have of shelling was found by archeologists excavating 30,000-year-old Homo sapiens sites in the European Mainland. There they found seashells from the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts which probably made their way to the continental interior by long distance trade between human bands. Furthermore, for around 4000 years cowry shells were used as money in many parts of Africa, South Asia, East Asia and Oceana. In fact, up until the early 20th century taxes could still be paid in cowry shells in British Uganda.

Despite humans having used shells for so long, it has only been since international tourism gained popularity (roughly in the 1970s) that the collection of shells has been such a widespread and impactful issue. For example, along the Mediterranean coast of Spain a mass increase in tourism during July and August has correlated with a 70% decrease in mollusk shells compared to numbers from the 1970s. Other months also saw a 60% decrease in shell abundance.

Some areas which have noticed similar correlations have begun regulating shelling. For instance, the Bahamas now limit the quantity of seashells that’s tourists can export without special permits so that tourism doesn’t have such a negative impact on the health of the ecosystem.

Entire counties putting rules in place, restricting the collection of shells is a huge step to solving the problem, however it is the actions of individuals around the world that has the most potential.


The best way to be environmentally friendly and help conserve the marine environment is to simply not take shells (or any other natural material for that matter) from coastlines or the ocean. However, if a person really cannot resist the urge to collect seashells, there are guidelines as to how to be more responsible:

1. Only take small, simple shells such as flat and cowry shells.

2. Only take a few- although a handful of shells may not seem like much, most people in the world have that same mindset so the total numbers of shells being removed from shorelines is huge.

3. Leave big and more complex (swirly) shells- remember that in order for a shell to be big an animal had to grow that big which is a rare occurrence. Also, swirly shells provide perfect homes for hermit crabs.

If you do choose to collect seashells, avoid sharing it on social media because others may not know how to do it responsibly/ethically. Educating others on the impacts of shelling and how to collect shells in a responsible way is another great way to play a part in conserving the marine environment.

Always remember: ‘Take only pictures, leave only footprints.’


Check Out Our Volunteer Marine Conservation Program 


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BlogForest Conservation

MRCI Agroforest, Planting For The Future.


Over the last few months our forest staff have been working on revamping our agroforest project. During the dry season our forest volunteers have been helping collect seeds to grow in our camp nursery so that we would have lots of seedlings to plant on our agroforest plot of land. An agroforest is traditionally trees and shrubs intermingled with crops and livestock. Our goal for the MRCI plot of land is to plant indigenous trees and shrubs along with crop plants as a prototype of an agroforest here on Nosy Komba.


Our forest conservation staff and volunteers have been working hard clearing parts of the land for crops so that the land would be ready for planting. As the land is being cleared everything cleared is being repurposed. The rocks that are found are being used to create a pathway around the land, the sticks and branches are being used to create a fence, and the plants which are cleared are being composted for future use on the land.

Now that the rain is starting again on Nosy Komba, our volunteers are beginning the planting process! Currently bean and peanut plants are being planted and seem to be taking very well on the land. Our forest staff wants to begin planting citronella around the perimeter of the property as a natural repellent of bugs to protect the crops. In the near future our Mango seedlings will be planted on the land as well. Our dream is to have a very diverse plot of land which can support many indigenous species and crops!

If you are interested in getting involved in our ongoing agroforest project

then be sure to check out our Volunteer Forest Conservation Program

Ninasphoto_joshagroforest_argoplot_1dec2018_ agroforest

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BlogSea Turtle Monitoring

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Nest


Hawksbill Sea Turtle Spotted Nesting Near Our Turtle Cove Camp

Last week a hawksbill sea turtle was spotted on Nosy Komba! Unlike the turtle that came onto our home beach this hawksbill sea turtle was actively digging a nest when it was spotted. The report we received placed the hawksbill sea turtle on a beach halfway between camp and Ampang Village. That description left two possible beaches. One of those beaches was wide enough for a turtle to nest on it with out the fear of the nest flooding, the other beach was not.

Our Turtle Monitoring staff with the help of two other staff members set off that evening to locate the nest to assess if it needed to be moved to a safer location. Our staff were relieved to find the tracks and signs of a possible nest on the preferable beach. From the tracks left up the beach our Turtle Monitoring staff were able to identify the turtle that came ashore as a hawksbill sea turtle. The location identified as the possible nest was still fairly neat leaving our staff unsure if the turtle actually did lay her nest there. It is possible that a turtle would come ashore, start digging, and deem a sight unsuitable and abandon the nest she started. Our Staff carefully began digging to see if she had in fact laid in the nest.


Everyone who was involved in digging wore clean gloves to insure no harmful chemicals would be coming into contact with the potential eggs. Common products like bug sprays, sunscreen, and even certain lotions contain chemicals which can be harmful to not just turtles, but most wildlife. After digging around the area to the appropriate depth and width it was agreed that the female did not lay her eggs in the nest. We were disappointed that we did not have an active nest, however the site of the nest was too close to the tide line so had she laid her nest there, it would have drowned if not moved. Moving a nest is a very delicate process because the embryo is attached to the lining in the egg and can easily be separated if not handled with extreme care. Nests should only be moved when it is absolutely necessary and only by those trained to do so. Our staff brought the appropriate materials to move the nest if they had to but were relieved that they would not have to interfere in the process.

If you want to help protect and conserve sea turtles then check out our new Volunteer Sea Turtle Monitoring Program for more information!


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sea turtle on our beach
BlogSea Turtle Monitoring

Sea Turtle Visits Our Beach

sea turtle on our beach

This past week we had an exciting encounter on our home beach when a female green sea turtle came ashore! It is very common to see sea turtles swimming on our reef, however it is far from common for one to come ashore our beach. Our home beach is a small cozy little out cove of sand, perfect for sunbathing but not ideal for turtle nests due to the tide. The tide has the ability of covering our entire beach, meaning any nest laid on our beach would more than likely be drowned. Luckily the female turtle only scoped out our beach, but did not end up laying her nest on it.

Our next-door neighbors happened to be on the beach when the female came on land and they were lovely enough to alert us. She did not stay for long however so by the time our staff arrived she had already made her way back to the water. Our neighbors managed to grab a photo of the turtle which our staff was able to identify as a green sea turtle! We were bummed that we missed her but we were more than excited to get the information that a green sea turtle was checking out Nosy Komba as a nesting ground. In the past MRCI staff have been lucky enough to witness hawksbill sea turtles nesting on Nosy Komba but never a green sea turtle.

This encounter was very out of the ordinary for multiple reasons. One major one being that it was in the evening. Turtles are known to come a shore at night to nest, not while it is still light out. This fact led our staff to make the educated guess that she was probably caught off guard and a little desperate to come ashore before dark. Another fact that lead us to that assumption is that females tend to return to the beach they were born on to lay their own nests. As long as MRCI has been operational we have not had a nest on our home beach so it is most likely not where she was born.

sea turtle tracks

Sea turtles are facing major survival issues. Only 1 in 1000 sea turtles make it to adulthood making witnessing a turtle nesting a very special honor. According to, Illegal poaching is the number one threat to turtles, but there are also other human factors factors such as heavy coastal development. “Rising global temperatures also have a detrimental impact on sea turtles’ food and reproduction. The warmer temperatures and increased acidity of the oceans affect the survival of some of their food sources, such as molluscs.” Another major issue it that the gender of a sea turtle is dependent on the temperature of the sand the eggs are buried in.  If global temperatures continue to rise only female sea turtles will be born leaving no males to mate with.

If you are passionate about sea turtle conservation then check out our new

Volunteer Sea Turtle Monitoring Program!

Our sea turtle conservation volunteers live and work at our Turtle Beach Camp where there are known turtle nesting sites. Volunteers help collect data on the population, protect active nests, and help educate the local community about the issues facing the sea turtle population.

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