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Turtle encounters in a coral field are always exciting during our Explorer snorkels. Coral in the Maldives has been impacted by rising temperatures, which cause coral bleaching. As temperature continues to rise, the colorful backdrop behind these turtles continues to disappear. . . . . 📷

Led by a team of passionate marine biologists, our pioneering, on-island marine research centres in Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru allow you to experience once-in-a-lifetime encounters with a variety of marine creatures while learning about their life and habitat. On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we would like to give a 'shout-out' to our resident Marine Savers and Manta Trust researchers: coral specialists, oceanographers, turtle rehab experts and manta researchers... their dedication and commitment to ocean conservation is shaping science and advancing research in their respective fields. A daily inspiration to all of us! 📷 📷

In January 2020 we have admitted 4 turtles from rescue operations. Lukily on the same month we were able to release 5 of our patients. We were extremely glad to have such a high release rate this month. We are thankful to all other Marine centres and people who contributed to this success. The Ocean pen remains a magnificent tool to increase our rescue and rehabilitation actions. ♡ Tiff's release (04.01.2020): Tiff was initially rescued by Atoll Marine Centre in March 2019, she recoverred from her buoyancy syndrom after 10 months spent in our cares. Iman & Samu's release (06.01.2020): Both were found entangled and rescued by our team, respectively in November and December 2019. They both suffered from laceration injuries and responded well to treatments. Taakey (13.01.2020): Taakey was rescued by our team thanks to the call from FS Ocean sport team. Taakey was found entangled in a ghost net alongside with Arielle (who is stil under recovery).

Follow up on our coral polyps nursery! The Pocillopora verrucosa corals are showing good rates of growth in our laboratory. At this stage, the main threat comes from competition for space. The main competitors are species of Crustose coraline algae (CCA), which can grow over the coral polyp colonies. In the middle of this photo you can see a 75 days old coral colony made of 17 polyps (aprox 5mm diameter), and few species of CCA located all around the rock. 📷

After several deep clean massages with mayonnaise, Tara is looking like a turtle again. She has spent some time recovering and regaining her strength and went on her first rehabilitation swim yesterday!! Go Tara, Go!!! . . .

Our coral polyps are under attack!! This photo shows Crustose coralline algae out competing one of our Pocillopora verrucosa polyps. Competition for space is an ongoing battle on the coral reef and here the faster crowing algae is slowly covering the slower growing coral. These two species share very similar needs and are often found inhabiting the same space. 👊🏻 🔪 🔫 🐟 🐠 🇲🇻

On the 23rd of January we received Tara, a juvenile Olive Ridley turtle covered in oil. Oil can affect turtles’ eyes, damage airways and lungs, contaminate their food supply or even be absorbed through their skin leading to damage to the digestive tract and other organs. Negative effects of an oil spill may diminish over several years or may last up to decades. Tara is being treated and cleaned at Kuda Huraa, with the help of some mayonnaise and care of our marine biologists! 💙 🐢 . . .

The Maldives Sea Turtle Identification Project has been receiving data through citizen science for the past 10 years. During the period of 2010-2019, 1206 individual Hawksbill turtles with 4323 re-sightings and 213 Green turtles with 421 re-sightings were sighted across various reefs within the Maldives. These maps depict the abundance of individuals sighted and their location (re-sightings not included). These numbers are representative only of the turtles that have been sighted, the actual estimates of the individuals that reside these reefs are thought to be higher. Sea turtles have unique facial scute (scale) patterns which can be used to identify them. In this new year, help us to extend our database and further understand our turtle populations by sending us pictures of your Maldivian turtle encounters! Visit our page ‘Maldives Turtle ID’ to learn more! . . .

An example of commensalism between our local heron and the baby blacktip sharks, right on our doorstep! When the juvenile sharks hunt for baitfish close to the shore, they frequently force them jump out of the water and onto the sand. The heron, waiting there, just needs to bend its neck to pick them up! 🐟🦈🐠🌊 . .

Fortunately, there is a happy ending for most of the turtles we rescue. Here is the case with Iman and Samu, both victims of ghost net entanglement. Samu was rescued on December 17th and Iman on November 25th. As shown in the picture, the rope of the net had caused severe lacerations on Iman face (top picture), the bottom picture shows her healed wounds after more than a month care in our center. Samu suffered from superficial abrasions, they both spent a couple of weeks recovering and were successfully released on January 6th. Good luck to them for this new year 2020!!! . . . .

During cruises on the Four Seasons Explorer live-aboard, our marine biologists on board teach guests all about the biology and ecology of whale sharks, and the proper code of conduct for swimming with them. They then search for whale sharks along the outer edge of South Ari atoll, where the sharks are most frequently sighted. . Guests on board were lucky enough to spend 1 hour with this individual in the water, due to responsible in-water practices. . Whale sharks can be identified by the unique spot pattern on the side of their body...ID shots were sent to .w.s.r.p, a dedicated research-based conservation charity, who identified this individual as WS382 or Mendhan (meaning midnight in Dhivehi) from their database. This organisation is doing amazing work in the area to provide a better understanding of the population dynamics and habitat use of the sharks they see there, educate local communities about the importance and needed protection of these endangered creatures, and to assist

Ghost nets aren’t supernatural but they are still scary! This lost or abandoned fishing gear continues to trap anything in their path including turtles, dolphins, sea birds, sharks and much more. Ghost nets damage coral reefs too - breaking and smothering corals and even blocking them from life giving sunlight. Most modern nets are made of nylon or other plastic compounds which can last for centuries. A Scientific Reports study in 2018 found that up to 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was made up of ghost nets! The majority of our admissions to our Turtle Rehabilitation Centre are victims of ghost nets. On the 10th January we successfully removed this net from outside our facility (pictures 2 & 3), along with 2 turtles. This net appeared to have been purposely attached to a large floating log (picture 4). Given our remote location it is highly likely that this net had travelled a great distance. Arielle (pictures 1,5 & 6) was extremely dehydrated and weighed 2kg when she

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