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BlogMarine Conservation

The Parking Lot is Growing

Margot Lootens

The Parking Lot in our MPA

About a year ago we started the construction of our sixth artificial reef named “the Parking Lot”. We bought three broken-down cars on Nosy Be and sunk them in the sea a few hundred meters in front of our beach. The metal frame of an old car forms a perfect base to create an interesting artificial reef which provides shelter and food for a variety of marine species, from corals and sea urchins to endemic fish and enormous jellyfish.


Already after a few months the metal frames were covered in algae, providing a base for coral to attach to the cars as well, in turn attracting a bigger variety of species to the reef. The Parking Lot has become an interesting site for our mariners to survey and, even more importantly, it contributes to the reconstruction and expansion of the reef out here in front of our beach.


Because of the success of this initiative, we recently decided to extend the Parking Lot. We managed to purchase three more broken-down cars in Hell-Ville. Placing the cars into the water was an entire operation, demanding some helping hands from both volunteers and staff members. Fortunately, this time we could use our boat, the Spirit of Malala, to transport the cars to the reef which made the operation a lot easier in comparison to a year ago when we had to keep them afloat with makeshift buoys.


The first car arrived on Friday afternoon. About ten volunteers got on board the Malala to lift and drop the car into the ocean while three of our marine staff members were in the water to guarantee the proper placement of the car on the bottom of the sea. Saturday morning two more cars arrived and were placed alongside the other cars to complete the Parking Lot. For now, we have to let nature do its work. Hopefully in a few months’ time we can start to attach coral to the frames and the reef can continue to expand.


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BlogCommunity Development

Fundraiser for Lemur Park Fire

Margot Lootens



Fundraiser for Single Mother Stall Owner

A fundraiser was recently held as one of the stalls at the lemur park in Ampang caught fire and was destroyed. Fortunately, the fire did not spread to destroy parts of the forest and no people or lemurs were injured. However, the owner of the stall, a single mother, lost all her merchandise which was her entire livelihood. By Monday, the news of the fire had reached camp. Concerned about the woman and her children, we decided to plan a fundraiser to collect money to help rebuild the woman’s stall and get her and her family back on their feet.

So, on Thursday we organized a big barbecue for all volunteers and staff members. Our kitchen ladies, some of the volunteers and staff members all worked together to prepare a delicious lunch with fresh caught fish, zebu brochettes, coconut rice and veggies.


We also managed to get some of the villagers of Ampang and guys from the lemur park to join us and play a game of soccer against the volunteers. In the burning sun at noon, they gave their all. Both teams were unstoppable! Even though both teams played to win, the atmosphere was amazing and the team spirit was high. Afterwards some of the players joined us for the barbecue. So, the fundraiser was not only a great way to raise money, but also for everyday to get to know each other a little better.


The fundraiser turned out to be a great success. Participation to the barbecue and soccer game was optional, but eventually almost all volunteers participated, which we are very grateful for. We are really happy we got to engage with the local community and spend the entire afternoon playing soccer, getting to know each other etc. But eventually the goal was still to raise money for the woman who lost her shop in the lemur park. We managed to raise a considerable amount of money with this initiative and we hope to can assist her in rebuilding her stall.


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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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