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Category: Sea Turtle Monitoring

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Volunteers with Silver Linings

January 2020


Our volunteers and programs came to an unfortunate halt this past week. A tropical storm passed over, which made way for an unusual week. Due to poor visibility and high swells our marine volunteers were unable to dive. The turtle conservation volunteers didn’t get to do their active turtle surveys. The muddy and slippery trails meant no hiking for the forest volunteers. Teaching and community volunteers were confined to Turtle Cove Camp, as boat rides and hiking to Ampang became too risky.

Wet season is no joke, and we take all of the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. Despite everything, the positive energy displayed by our volunteers shined through and saved the week. Vibrant new volunteers gave it their all and carried out beach cleans, strengthened their species knowledge through games and lectures, countless bamboo straws and eco brick were also made!


The most significant event of the week was by far our beach clean. We had volunteers from all programs join in and take part. It is the middle of turtle nesting season, and although we have been eagerly awaiting any sign of turtle activity, we’ve received no indication of turtles nesting. So, when we came to find a beach littered with about fifty eggs, it was equally devastating and exciting. Turtle Conservation Manager, Russel, was part of the beach clean-up crew. He was able to offer valuable insights into what had occurred and what it meant for the baby turtles.

Unfortunately, due to the fragility of turtle nests (or clutches), the beached turtle embryos had no chance of survival. Two important and sensitive factors when turtle eggs are laid in their nest would be their orientation within and temperature. These factors ultimately affecting their survival. The harsh storm and exposure on the beach meant that there was no chance of survival for the turtle eggs that we had found. Russel opened a turtle egg and talked everyone through turtle development.


Although a sad experience, our volunteers found it very informative and left with a greater understanding of the many challenges that these animals face. We left our beach as clean as possible and continued our clean ups as much as we could throughout the rest of the week. The energy of our volunteers is unparalleled and we wouldn’t be anything close to what we are without them.


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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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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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