Turtle nesting project – Our first patrol

Turtle nesting project – Our first patrol

This year I traveled to Tanzania and got to do a lot of diving. Africa had always been one of the things on my scuba bucket list, and I finally got the chance, ending up spending six weeks there.

When I arrived in Tanzania I was contacted by Wim and Kerstin from Kasa Divers in Usongo. They said they had great diving and, in addition to this, a turtle project that was in it’s fifth year, doing relocation for endangered turtle nests. You see, Tanzania is a known turtle nesting place, However, as with any other place for turtles, nesting places are declining.

Maziwe just before high tides

Katrine Overbeck - DIVE.in

The project

Before I tell you about the project you need to know why anyone would ever get the crazy idea to relocate a turtle nest.

Maziwe was once a small atoll with white beaches, trees, palms and a perfect place for turtles to lay their eggs. About 30 years ago all of the trees were cut down, causing sand erosion, which moved the sand down and out into the water.

Now Maziwe is only visable duing low tide, with only 100 meters /300 feet of it showing above the water, which is just enough for a turtle to come to and lay her eggs.

When the high tides move in the atole is flooded and the turtle eggs get wet and then begin to rot, destroying the eggs and the unborn embryos inside.

Getting the nests

Patrol Boat

Torben Lonne - DIVE.in

It is crucial to find the nests and get the eggs off the atoll before these tides come.

We went on a nest “patrol” one very early morning long before sunrise. The little eggs needed to be saved and high tide was predicted to be early that day.

So we got into the waiting speedboat and started sailing towards Maziwe.

We were sitting in the boat while one of the local guys in the turtle project named Mungia was driving. He carefully maneuvered the boat, using natural references instead of GPS navigation, out past the reef, about 100 meters off the coast.

About a half hour after leaving the coast we started to see a speck of land. The sun was just starting to peek out above the horizon, making the small piece of land more and more visible.

This was the first time I laid my eyes of this small atoll and it was amazing. I could feel that there was something special about this little 100 x 10 meters of sand located in the middle of the ocean.

The sun was steadily rising, making everything a lot easier to see as we got off the boat and onto Maziwe. If it hadn’t been for the speedboat and my traveling companions, I would have felt like the real Robison Crusoe.

Turtle tracks on Maziwe

Torben Lonne - DIVE.in

We all started searching for turtle tracks and for nests. Walking rapidly from one end to the other, we found two long tracks from the turtles, but unfortunately not any nests.

It was apparent the turtles had been on the tiny island, but for some reason they had decided not to lay their eggs the previous night. This really disappointed us because we had hoped to find a turtle nest so we could see how they relocate the eggs.

Still a chance to see the Turtles

Turtle in Basket before release into the ocean

Katrine Overbeck - DIVE.in

Fotunately we were staying in Ushongo for another eight days so we still would have a chance to see some nest relocations.

And hopefully some already relocated on land that were just about ready to hatch.

If you would like to see how it went, read how it went when we foud the turtle nest, or a Turtle Nest Hatching. In the meantime if you want to read more about the turtle project in Ushongo visit: www.friendsofmaziwe.com or www.kasadivers.com .

Have you ever witnessed a turtle nest hatch? What was it like to see those little guys running toward the water?

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world.He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of DIVE.in you can always catch him here [email protected]

5 Comments

  1. David Mc Nally

    When visiting Bali and Java this summer my girlfriend and I got to experience releasing baby turtles into the ocean in Sukamade on the south east part of Java. Amazing experience that I would definitely recommend, even with a bumpy, four hour ride to get there. We also experienced grown turtles laying eggs on the beach – seeing them on land is great fun when you know how they move in the water. :)

    A small album with four photos of turtles (and two of volcanoes) here: http://imgur.com/a/z43ZH

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi David,
      I’ve seen a lot of these projects in Indonesia. It’s really amazing!

      I never got too see them laying eggs that sounds awesome as well! They are so cool and came in the water and slow and bulky on land.
      And nice pictures I guess thats for next time :)
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tristan Paylado

    It’s a good thing to know that turtle conservation is growing nowdays.

    May i respectfully share some biological and ecological points to consider:

    The main reason why we relocate the turtle eggs is because of the sandbars location. It is frequently submerged in water, making the sand wet.

    But have we ever wonder why these turtles naturally choose this particular sandbar as their nesting grounds? Is their a particular characteristic that makes this sandbar ideal for laying their eggs?

    The bottom line is we should consider all biological and physical factors of the relocation site that should fit for the turtle eggs to hatch. There are sad stories that not a single egg has hatched in an assigned relocation site. This happened in Legaspi City, Albay, Philippines when they transferred eggs of a leatherback turtle.

    If i may suggest, a study should be done comparing the hatching rate of the sandbar as the turtle’s natural nesting grounds between the relocation site.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
    • Kerstin Erler

      Dear Tristan,

      Thanks for your comment and your remarks. I am working for the turtle conservation project of Friends of Maziwe. The main reason to relocate all the nests is the inundation of the island resulting in a total failure of hatch. Therefore the nests are taken to our beach which luckily is a nesting Beach for turtles as well. The success rate currently is around 80% for all relocated nests. Sadly we can not do any nest studies on the original island anymore without loosing the eggs.

      In the past the island was frequently visited by three different species of turtles. Today there is only one left and also this one will not survive on the island either.

      We are trying to close the lifecycle for sea turtles again since they have lost their nesting beach due to human impacts. I think that is the least we can do for them!

      Thanks again and enjoy the story!

  3. Tristan Paylado

    Okay, Great! It seems that you are maximizing the turtle conservation in general.

    Great Job Guys and continue the good work for mother earth.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply

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