As part of GVI’s conservation strategy, we regularly partake in various surveys throughout each week. One of the most common surveys involves hiking to beaches nearby (which are all absolutely stunning) to look for turtle tracks. Once we came across tracks, we would examine the area for possible nests in order to check and count the eggs. However, the turtle nesting season doesn’t officially begin until after my time with GVI so nest sightings were unfortunately quite rare – though it is very common for hawksbill turtles to nest during the period between October and January on the Seychelles. At least once a week we would partake in a snorkel and it was during these that we got to see and swim alongside turtles, as well as admire all the abundant sea life that the Seychelles has to offer, including sharks, rays and plenty of fish. “Sharking” was another exciting survey in which we use nets to safely catch juvenile Lemon sharks. Once caught, a trained member of staff would insert a PIT tag, whilst the rest of us helped measure its height, take its weight, pour water over the gills and take pictures. It was always very exciting when we caught a shark and since I’ve been here we have caught 1 juvenile Lemon shark and 3 Black Tip Reef sharks (including the largest one ever recorded here on Curieuse!). The PIT tags enable us to monitor the sharks’ movements around Curieuse which is valuable data that is given to the Seychelles National Park Authorities (SNPA) which can be used to re-establish the extent of the national park in order to minimise shark deaths via fishing and poaching. In addition to these surveys, we also do work with the relatively vast giant tortoise population on the island. Every year GVI collates a census of the current tortoise population. This is done by scanning the backs of their shells to detect a PIT tag and the corresponding code is used to basically tick them off the list, kind of like a register. If they haven’t been recorded for the current year then we use a tape measure to take various measurements of the tortoise’s shell (AKA carapace), length and nail to aid in the monitoring of their growth and development. If the tortoise is found to not have a PIT tag then we simply insert one. For the tortoises aged below 5 years a census is completed around every 6 months in which we perform the same routine as for the adults. This was one of the best surveys in my opinion because we got to be surrounded by very energetic, tiny hatchling tortoises which were absolutely adorable. Lastly, one of the not-so-popular, but very successful surveys was “ratting”. This as you can probably tell by the name involved rats! We had to traverse down multiple transects which contained humane rat traps to check for rat carcasses and to refresh the bait of each trap. Rats on Curieuse are an invasive species and commonly kill and eat the eggs of birds, turtles and tortoises, as well as the very cute hatchlings. So to take part in an activity that reduces their population is very promising for the endemic species of Curieuse, which of course is very rewarding to see.
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