Hello again! My time here at the Marine Discovery Centre is flying by! (Read my first chapter here).
So much has been happening at our turtle centre, with many happy farewells and a few new admissions. Poppy, one of our rehabilitated Hawksbill turtles (that I named), was successfully released, followed shortly afterwards by a second, Villingili. Villi had been in the centre for several months after being found malnourished, weak, and with severe jaw problems that prevented her from eating. The whole team put tremendous amounts of effort into her long rehabilitation. Being the one to release Poppy and Villi back into the ocean was an absolute honour … and overwhelmingly awesome! Both were clearly ready for release, as they swam straight down to the deep waters and slowly disappeared from view. Now I am always on the lookout for them when we visit the release area (Makunadhoo) on our snorkel safaris.
We also said goodbye to five of our Head Start green turtles – Tony, Rex, Oscar, Honu and Bodhi. They were released from the beach in front of an enthusiastic crowd of guests. A couple of the turtles ran to the water and swam away immediately, while the others kept trying to come back to the comfort of our Centre! Rex was especially blasé about his release, as he kept washing up on the beach and munching on the seagrass floating just off shore, in no hurry at all. He did eventually leave us, but I imagine he didn’t make it past the house reef since there are plenty of seagrass beds there for him to laze about in.
Irene and I had the job of trying to follow and film Rex and Honu during their release. Rex couldn’t look past the easy meal of seagrass in front of him.
With many turtles leaving us, there was more room for a few new arrivals that needed our help. We received three green turtle hatchlings that had been found trapped in a nest, five days after hatching. They were caught between some roots, causing flipper or carapace deformities, however, they are all able to dive and eat successfully. (They are actually more capable of diving than some of our older Hawksbill hatchlings).
We have also received another adult the size of Sweetie, but this time it’s a male. It’s the first time we could be sure that we actually have a mature male in the Centre because of his long tail. Unfortunately, Beybe (as named by his saviours), was found in a large fishing net that was cutting into his front flippers and neck. It is not clear if he will need an amputation, but he recently stopped using his front flippers to swim. Beybe has since been receiving frequent flipper massages and some physiotherapy to try and encourage movement. Despite his issues, his feistiness has not been impacted. Beybe and Sweetie have been spotted trying to bite each other through the separating fence, however, there is speculation that these may be love bites… ! ❤
Giving Villingili a little pep talk before her release
We also recently saw the arrival of two juvenile Olive Ridley turtles. People travelling on a ‘super yacht’ had found and freed the turtles from a fishing net. I went along to meet the yacht just outside the atoll as it was too large to moor at the resort. It felt like a dramatic, clandestine mission, loading the turtles onto our boat in the dead of night, before the yacht sailed off minutes later!
Our new additions, Boo and Luc, were in pretty bad shape and had suffered abrasions to most areas of their bodies as well as some deep flipper lacerations. It was clear that Boo was in the poorest health as he was 2kg lighter than Luc, despite being the same size. Boo also suffered from more wounds. Unfortunately, Boo was too weak and ill and ultimately succumbed to his injuries. Comparatively, Luc has been showing great improvements, with constant wound care and has a massive appetite. Overall, a bittersweet result for the rescue.
Recently, we have been bracing ourselves for another major coral bleaching event (as witnessed in 2016). Following a hint of paling in the main channel, coral frames are being relocated to the deeper waters of the House Reef to give the frames a fighting chance. It isn’t just the Maldives experiencing the beginnings of a new bleaching event, it is occurring on a global scale, including my homeland on the Great Barrier Reef. The rate of bleaching is unprecedented, and the future of corals worldwide is unclear. Without action against climate change to reduce the rates of ocean warming, so much marine life could be facing a precarious future.
“Swimming with the fishes” has a different meaning in the Maldives…
As well as climate change, Drupella snails are acting as another pressure on coral survival. The snails can be found in large numbers feeding on the living tissue of corals. Observations I have made indicate they are often found feeding on diseased corals. Previous research investigating the impact of snails has questioned whether it is the Drupella or the disease that appears first. It is unclear if the snails can act as a vector for diseases or if feeding scars can facilitate infection. It is also unclear if the Drupella instead just show a feeding preference for compromised corals – thereby presenting a lesser threat to coral survival. To provide more insight, I have been carrying out an investigation on the active feeding preferences of Drupella snails.
In order to investigate Drupella feeding preferences, three food options were provided to the snails: healthy coral, diseased coral, and scarred coral fragments. After 24 hours and 48 hours, I then recorded the number of Drupella (out of a total 50 individuals) that were feeding on or taking shelter near each coral type. After five trials, there was no noticeable preference for any coral type. The was also no bias towards coral position (within the system) or number of fragment branches. More trials would be required to minimise variation to determine if the snails exhibit a preference.
The set-up of my experiment: 50 Drupella offered three food options
During my last couple of weeks, there have been whispers of the manta season approaching! In preparation for this, a new snorkel tour was being trialled, to investigate a nearby manta cleaning station. I got the chance to go on a staff snorkel with some work colleagues from different departments. First, we went to the manta cleaning site but found no mantas. We did, however, see plenty of reef sharks and a green turtle that was almost as large as me! Next, we moved on to Tuna Pass – named for the tuna carcasses that are dumped there from a nearby fish processing factory. It sounds disgusting, but snorkelling there is epic! So many massive stingrays come for a feed, there are tonnes of schooling fish, and many different species of eel that have taken up residence in the area. I never knew which way to look because there was so much going on … an amazing experience!
As I look back at my last three months, I can’t believe how much has happened and how much I have learned. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity and meet the amazing people here at Kuda Huraa. I have definitely made some friends for life, who are from all over the globe and will give me a great ‘excuse’ to travel far and wide in the future! I am also going to miss all the turtles so much, and I will be following their progress very closely!
Bye Maldives, hope to see you again 🙂
Thanks for reading
The Seamarc team were excellent teachers (thank you!) and everyone was very patient so I learnt very quickly.
I will always be eternally grateful for this opportunity ... A very sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart for everyone’s encouragement, hard work and dedication. My short time here has allowed me to learn so many things that otherwise might not have been possible.
The memories I have forged here will always have a special place in my heart ♡ … what a wonderful country!
Janice (Singapore) 2017
From literally stepping out of the airport and onto the resort speedboat, I was completely blown away by how amazing the Maldives is; hot sun, blue skies, and crystal-clear waters … paradise!
In my first week, I spent a lot of time learning about and working with the resident sea turtles ... Caring for these turtles has been great fun and each one has its own personality.
... we were lucky to encounter a large pod of false killer whales, which was an incredible experience!
The teams at both resorts are a fantastic group of people and I enjoyed every moment working with them all.
Mark (UK) 2016
The first week was a busy one as three new rehab turtles turned up in three consecutive days. I have also been busy with guest snorkel trips, dolphin cruises, scientific projects, coral reef monitoring and surfing world class waves at the local breaks!
I have been here for the last five wonderful weeks ... such great fun and every day is so varied ... to learn all I can about the amazing marine life in the Maldives.
Adam (UK) 2016
Each morning I caught the local 8:15 ferry boat … much better than the bus in Germany!
One day we went to a nearby uninhabited agricultural island, to collect some turtle hatchlings and release them out in the open water. Another great experience was the manta boat-trip ... for one whole day we searched for mantas in different sites around Baa Atoll.
All in all I can say that my 6 weeks’ volunteering ... was a great experience, I met a lot of nice and very friendly people and I learned a lot about turtles, fish species and corals in the beautiful tropical waters around the Maldives.
Nicole (Germany) 2016
The Marine Savers team is great fun to work with, and I couldn’t have asked for a better location to gain some experience in environmental conservation.
It was wonderful to be around so many people who share my passion for the underwater world, and I hope it’s not too long before I’m back beneath the waves in the Maldives!
Dhiya (Sri Lanka) 2016
Every day was a different adventure, with turtles to treat, corals to transplant, talks to give and dolphins to spot. It is always a thrill to (see) the juvenile Spinner dolphins, who stick very close to their mothers but are often the most acrobatic jumpers, putting the ‘spin’ in Spinner. Sometimes we were lucky to spot manta rays too.
I am very grateful to the Marine Savers team ... It has strengthened my desire to work in marine conservation and I hope to be back in the Maldives one day!
Roz (UK) 2016
You can see some breathtaking marine life here in the Maldives, and every time I’m in the water I feel constantly in awe of my surroundings ... 2 mantas at a cleaning station swam through our dive group, getting extremely close!
These activities, along with the people I have met along the way have ... made the experience so enjoyable and memorable.
Emily (UK) 2016
I had never seen a turtle this large before, which was a whole new experience for me in itself ... It took 6 people to get this amazing turtle out of the water and into the boat.
I have even started leading some of the snorkel safaris around nearby reefs, an incredibly rewarding experience to be sharing information and experiences with people. My favourite moments have often been on our dolphin cruises, the incredible spinner dolphins never cease to amaze me as they throw their bodies high above the water surface. That is certainly a sight I will never get tired of!
Sophie (UK) 2015
Taking time off work to travel all the way to the Maldives to care for sea turtles might seem a crazy idea to some; for me, however, it was the chance of a lifetime. This was the perfect opportunity to leave my office desk in the concrete jungle of Hong Kong and take part in something meaningful in a unique part of the world.
I have had a tremendous time, and have made friends with a lot of lovely people from around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would definitely like to come back some day to visit everyone… and the sea turtles too, of course!
Keith (Hong Kong) 2015
Winy and Hazel had a very busy and enjoyable time, working with our turtle care patients and the Reefscapers coral propagation programme.
They also helped with an important reef clean-up, and had a memorable day releasing baby turtle hatchlings into the ocean.
Winy & Hazel (Hong Kong) 2015
Every day since I have arrived has been an adventure!
I am witnessing new and amazing things every day, from sunsets to 'Spanish Dancers' ! It’s a wonderful experience as we share underwater marine life encounters, and I have actually lost count of how many sharks, dolphins and turtles I’ve encountered since I arrived ... and it’s magical every time.
Cath (UK) 2015
The care and rehabilitation of the turtles here is very satisfying work.
In just a short few weeks, I have seen Spinner Dolphins, Hawksbill Turtles, Black Tip Reef Sharks and of course lots of colourful and varied marine life ... a wonderful moment each time!
Mailis (Belgium) 2015
A very enjoyable part of my job is spreading awareness to the public, to promote better understanding and appreciation for the marine ecosystem. We recently organised a school excursion ... seeing these enthusiastic children learning about the environment brings me joy and hope.
My time here has been an amazing experience ... more than just swimming with the fishes and being surrounded by beautiful reefs!
Adrelia (Singapore) 2014
Frédéric was a PhD student and lecturer at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, specialising in ecology and tropical marine biology.
During his time with us, Frédéric researched indigenous Echinoderms, and possibly discovered a previously undocumented new species of sea cucumber.
Frédéric (France) 2014
Glen worked with us in 2014, developing a shark population survey to study local populations of Blacktip Reef sharks using a variety of survey methods including underwater camera traps, and snorkel surveys.
Glen (UK) 2014
One of our first interns, Dylan (from Singapore's Temasek Polytechnic) had an amazingly unique experience with us.
Firstly, he helped with the rescue of a stranded false killer whale 'Haita' (although she sadly did not survive rehabilitation).
And then he was invited to the “Marine Mammal Stranding Symposium” (February 2013), to present our work and findings to fellow marine biologists.
Dylan (Singapore) 2012