After a 12 hour flight I was really lucky, because the sea turtle hotline got a call about a turtle nesting in St Lawrence area. Together with Carla Daniel and two international volunteers that had just arrived that day we went to Salt Ash. When we got to the beach the turtle had left, but the tracks were really visible. There was a track up, a body pit, scattered about sand and a track back to the sea. Carla told us where she expected the eggs to be, which was actually in the middle near the back of the scattered sand. She dug a really deep hole and found an egg which confirmed that there was a new nest. She explained us how to fill out the data form, to draw a map with three reference points and then we took all the required measurements. We put a stick in the nest with the information required and then covered up the sea turtle tracks to avoid poachers from finding the nest and to make sure we would not record the activity for a second time.
I met Julia Horrocks at her office at the University of the West Indies. We talked about the project, the situation and the plans on Curaçao. See asked me if it would be possible to also monitor a beach on the south side of Curaçao, because heavy waves, like we have in Shete Boka are not the ideal nesting places for all turtles. She reckoned it would be very interesting to also know about the turtle activity on the other side of the island.
Later in the day I met Darren Browne, the field director of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, and talked to him about the situation on Curaçao and the things that we are going to set up.
Then Darren gave a presentation for all the new volunteers (five international and two local). He first addressed the general situation on Barbados, the things that they expect from people participating in the project and then he talked about how to handle turtles. Nesting females have priority over everything else. When you get a call about a nesting turtle you go there as soon as you can and you stay with the turtle until she is back in the water. This is to prevent poaching.
Carla Daniel took me and two international volunteers to Fitts Village. There had been turtle activity the day before and we went to see what it was. We found a nest. We went over the tracks again, how you can see the difference of an up track and a down track, where to find the eggs and how to estimate the of the activity. We confirmed the nest, wrote up all the data and then patrolled the rest of the beach. There were a few more nests and also and an attempt and a dry run.
Today the annual Morgan Lewis Leatherback walk took place. We were at the beach at 2:30 p.m. where our group split up into two smaller groups. My group recorded 27 Leatherback activities and we also confirmed one nest that was real close to the high water mark and needed to be relocated. We practiced with digging nest for relocation. After the relocation we walked the beach again in the hope of seeing a Leatherback, but unfortunately we did not see one.
During the day we went to patrol the West coast with all the volunteers. Darren explained us again what we should look for and how we should fill in the data sheet and how to draw a good map. We recorded lots of different activities.
At night we went to the South coast. We responded to a turtle spotting at the Salt Ash. When we came to the beach she just started laying her eggs. She was untagged and Darren gave us instructions about how to tag a turtle and showed us how it has to be done. I filmed this. After the turtle left it was decided that the nest needed to be relocated. I was the one that could take out the eggs out of the new nest. There were 147 eggs. The eggs were relocated at the index beach.
During the day we patrolled the West coast. At night we patrolled the South coast. I got lots of activity with recognizing and reading tracks and filling in the data sheets. It is really good to see that almost along all the beaches information is given about sea turtles.
We marked the trees at the Hilton section during the day. This will help when drawing the maps later on.
The night patrol started with a hatchling release. The hotel that collected the hatchlings had advertised the hatchling release and a lot of people came to see. We answered a lot of questions about the hatchlings and see turtles in general. During the hatchling release a turtle came up and started nesting about 200m from the release. While some other volunteers went to deal with the turtle I stayed with the hatchlings. After they all were in the water and all the people left I got to see the nesting turtle. When we left the beach a little later we found one hatchling that washed up again and it was being attacked by a crab. She was still alive and we helped her get into the water again. We patrolled a few other beaches along the West coast.
We had a BBQ with students from Bellairs, which we were supposed to give information about sea turtles. They were also present during the Leatherback walk and at the hatchling release the day before. During the dinner we got a call for a turtle spotting at the South coast board walk. So we left to go there. When we got there the turtle was body pitting. She had been trying different spots for almost an hour. When she finally gave up, Carla and Robert, two experienced project members tried to tag her, but the turtle was really anxious. She was resisting a lot and because there was a steep staircase close by, they decided that for her safety it was better to let her go.
Darren was asked by a hotel to give a presentation about sea turtles for guests as well as staff members. All the volunteers went along, because it is expected that they could also do these types of presentations in the future. BSTP also had a merchandise stand at the hotel, which they sell to generate funds.
During the evening patrol I had a chance to do my first tagging.
We patrolled the West coast during the night.
We went to Bath, located at the East coast of the island, to do the weekly patrol. There was some activity recorded. There they do not confirm nest, because there is a mongoose pest. Confirming them will put the eggs at risk.
Night patrol Carla Daniel. We covered two sections of the South coast, saw two turtles nesting and got a call for disoriented hatchlings at Amarylis Hotel. We got the chance to do an excavation which was very interesting. Carla explained how to fill in the data. One of the hatchlings that was still alive in the egg, came out but still had the yolk of the egg on his stomach. He was taken to the infirmary for a maximum of three days. During this time he would straighten out and hopefully would absorb the yolk completely, so he would have enough energy to make it to the open water. Carla explained us how to take care of the hatching. The other hatchlings were released a little further along the beach were there were no lights on the beach.
During the day we went to the Sandy Lane hotel to try and do an excavation based on old nest information. Unfortunately the measurements seemed to be of and we could not find the nest.
At night we patrolled the West coast with Aaron Garstin. We got a call for a nesting turtle. The turtle was tagged on the right, but not on the left. So I got my second tagging practice.
Later we found another turtle nesting. She was already tagged. We wrote down all the other activity on the beaches we patrolled.
All the volunteers had a day of, but Robert, a year round volunteer was willing to take me on a day patrol. We first responded to a call for a nest spotting at the South Coast board walk. We confirmed a Hawksbill nest just next to the berm. Because the nest was only 50 cm away from the high water mark and the berm, we decided it would be best to relocate the nest to a better location, because a washout would be likely to occur for the current nest location. We relocated the 169 eggs to a safe location 10 meters away. After that we went to Foul Beach, looking for hatchling tracks. Unfortunately we didn’t find any. We did see some hawksbill activity which we wrote down. Then in the afternoon we walked quite a big part of long beach, recording lots of turtle activity’s.
In the evening we walked past the South coast board walk were we saw a turtle emerge from the surf. We saw her make a few body pits, and then she decided to leave without laying. The turtle was already tagged.
Travelled back to Curaçao.
A Decade of Sea Turtle Monitoring On Klein Bonaire