Turtle nesting season begins in Seychelles

26 January 2010 | News story

It is that time of the year again and hawksbill turtles are making their annual pilgrimage to Seychelles’ shores to nest. The hawksbill breeds throughout Seychelles, peaking between mid-October and mid- January. On Cousin Island, an early appearance was reported on August 8. Appearances are starting to pick up now and more turtles will arrive in November, December and January.

As numbers peak so will monitoring. The Special Reserve has one of the longest running monitoring programmes - started in 1972 - forming a core part of the wardens’ and volunteers work programs. Appearance dates and locations have to be recorded with nesting beaches being patrolled several times a day.

The wardens also use metal tags with unique identification code, which they attach to the front flippers of each nesting turtle encountered, as one of the ways to monitor the turtles. This enables them to identify individual females returning to the beach each season. They also take other data such as turtle measurement, track measurement and information related to the location of the nest, like beach parameters and vegetation. Other monitoring methods are also being introduced such as the use of data loggers in turtle nests to monitor temperature.

The hawksbill turtle still remains a critically endangered species. Poaching is one of its biggest threats and still occurs in spite of the legal deterrents in place. Hawksbill are protected by Seychelles law and international treaty.

Beyond human-related threats, nesting success can be affected by other reasons. Eggs can be washed away by waves, while steep crests and obstacles can inhibit the female’s progress across the beaches to lay eggs. Once hatched, babies are a favorite food for ghost crabs, birds and fish.

Baby turtles could also be affected by beach lighting, which can cause them to head inland rather than out to sea. “No wonder then that baby turtles heading towards the sea are often sent off with a word of encouragement and entreaty to survive, much as one would a child leaving home!” Says Eric Blais, Nature Seychelles Conservation officer also in charge of monitoring. Green turtles also nests in the Seychelles Islands all year round, but few on Cousin Island.

For more information, please contact: liz@natureseychelles.org as the use of data loggers in turtle nests to monitor temperature.