Hi Everyone! My name’s Tori and I’m the current intern here at the Marine Discovery Centre on Kuda Huraa.
I’m 21 years old and just recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine and Wildlife biology from Griffith University on the Gold Coast (Queensland, Australia). Coming straight out of Uni I never thought I would get the opportunity to even visit the Maldives, let alone work in such a beautiful place. This has already been an incredible experience and I’m only one month in!
This past month, I have been involved in various aspects of the work that happens in the Centre. I’ve mainly been assisting our turtle biologist, and focusing on learning all that I can about the daily care and treatment of the turtles that the centre looks after. I have previously worked with nesting turtles but never with rescued rehabilitation animals, so this has been an incredible learning experience for me. Living in a different part of the world meant that I had predominantly worked with Loggerheads and Greens, and prior to coming to the centre had never even seen an Olive Ridley or Hawksbill turtle, so I was very excited to begin working with all the patients.
My days usually involve feeding the turtles and recording the feeds, cleaning their pools and giving them their daily treatments (I’ve learnt how to administer injections with antibiotics and fluids, and clean infected wounds). I’ve learnt however, that when you are looking after 23 turtles, no 2 days are ever the same.
Our turtle ‘Head Start’ and Rescue Centre
Cleaning Trooper’s wounds
My first week was crazy busy, with 2 new arrivals to the centre; one of which (‘Ranee’) needed an immediate amputation of her front flipper due to damage sustained from entanglement in a drifting ghost fishing net. I helped with the amputation and it was so interesting to see the medical procedure. Ranee is now currently staying with us in Kuda Huraa and has recovered from her surgery incredibly well. She will continue to stay here until she has made a full recovery, after which she will hopefully be returned to her home in the ocean.
The second arrival, however, was a reminder of how much of a threat the ghost nets really are to turtles. An Olive Ridley (‘Mitte’) was found floating in a net (photo) just outside the resort and was brought in by the morning dive team. At first glance, her wounds did not seem severe and a quick release seemed possible. However, within a few days, her condition took a turn for the worse and one of her front flippers became infected. The infection spread to the rest of her body and unfortunately, she passed away. It is heartbreaking to know that the biggest threats to wild, free-swimming sea turtles predominantly arise from human-related actions.
Wild Hawksbill turtle cruising along the reef on one of our snorkel trips (with Powder Blue Tang and Lined Bristletooth)
On 28 March, one of our adult Olive Ridley turtles (‘Donatello’) took a turn for the worse, and her front right flipper started to become infected. After monitoring the damage to her wounds and doing the best we could to help her situation, the decision was made to rush her to the vet in Baa Atoll for emergency surgery to amputate her front right flipper. She was sent on the first available speed boat to the airport, and then on to the first available flight to Coco Palm Resort. Thanks to the Olive Ridley Project’s resident expert veterinarian, Donny’s surgery was successful and she is currently back with us on Kuda Huraa to hopefully make a full recovery.
Apart from turtle-related tasks, I have also been assisting our marine biologists by helping lead some of marine life talks and snorkel trips. Each day we have a different snorkel trip, which starts with a relevant presentation on marine life, and follows with a trip out to one of surrounding reefs where guests are able to see these animals in their natural habitats. It has been wonderful to be able to speak to the public about the marine life that we have here in the Maldives and then take them out to the ocean to see everything for themselves. From snorkelling with sharks, to rays and turtles, it’s always rewarding when guests show such an interest in the diverse marine life. I have also really enjoyed leading the evening dolphin excursions. Cruising through the channel at sunset with spinner and bottlenose dolphins swimming alongside the boat is always a great way to end any working day.
Between caring for the turtles and guiding snorkels, during my spare time I have been working on a project involving turtle identification. The ‘Maldives National Sea Turtle Identification Programme’ was started here in 2011 and aims to create a photographic database of all turtles Maldives-wide. It is a non-invasive project that involves marine biologists and tourists submitting photos of turtles (left-side and right-side head profile), which are then added to a large database, used to identify each individual. New individuals can also be named by the person who submits their photo.
In the past 7 years, A LOT of photographs have been submitted into the database, with 200+ Green turtles and 1000+ Hawksbills individually identified and catalogued. For the past month, my role in the project has been sorting through all the photos of the submitted turtles, to confirm that no duplicates have been entered into the database. This will help to ensure the accuracy of any further identifications.
Even my days/nights off have been interesting, and I was fortunate to be here during the annual staff party, which was a great night filled with a lot of dancing. I have also started diving on the local House Reef on my days off; it’s great to begin diving in the Maldives and I’m looking forward to doing more of it.
The past month has been a wonderful experience and a big thank you is due to the MDC team at Kuda Huraa for their support in helping me settle into this new lifestyle. I am so looking forward to what the next 2 months brings! (Read my chapter 2)
Till next time