Kihineh (/kiːhiːne/) ! 🙂
Greetings to you, from the jewelled necklace of the Indian Ocean! My name is Maanee, and I’m one of the fresh faces interning with Marine Savers at Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa. Not a day in my experience has been anything short of sensational. If most travellers consider vacationing in the Maldives as a ‘luxury’, then every aspiring marine biologist must consider the opportunity to live and work here as a dream and privilege.
One of our chief missions here at Marine Savers is to protect, care and preserve our sea turtles. All seven known species of sea turtles globally have been catalogued by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘endangered’. Internationally, Hawksbill turtles are hunted for their colourful shells, which are repurposed into souvenirs for sale to tourists. Here in the Maldives, sea turtles are a protected species, however, turtles and their eggs continue to be hunted and consumed. It’s disheartening to know that such acts occur but serves as a reminder that laws are not always enough and marine education plays a vital role..
Let me be the first to tell you, caring for turtles is a full-time job!
I spend most of my mornings feeding our hungry turtles and cleaning their pools.
Fun fact: Turtles, like people, have their own quirks and personalities! Which is why we, as much as possible, try to give them a red-carpet experience – even addressing them each by name (as if they were actual guests staying at our Resort!) Some are slow-moving, others can be more dynamic, and they all have their favourite types of foods. Some can even get so excited that they defecate on their caregivers (me)! 💩
December was a busy month. We admitted four new patients to our Rehabilitation Centre, all of them Olive Ridleys. Our last rescue was particularly upsetting to witness. The turtle was delivered to our centre after being found caught in a net, missing three of her flippers. Her condition was very severe, bones exposed, and she had a completely deformed shell due to being trapped in the net for a very long time.
These turtles drift into Maldivian waters whilst tangled in ghost nets from neighbouring countries. Their conditions vary, depending on the extent of their injuries. Some sustain deep lacerations to their flippers, often requiring amputation. It is heart-breaking to witness first-hand the damage done to our marine wildlife due to human activities.
But we also have success stories! Once we consider our turtle patients to be healthy, we release them. We had a special release of one of our hawksbill turtles – ‘KG’ – during my first month. KG came to our centre with injuries from a spear gun on her front flipper. Thanks to our marine biologists, she recovered quickly and was soon swimming around our pools, mostly making a mess and splashing anyone who tried to carry her! It felt rewarding to see her make her way back home into the ocean during the release. On Christmas Eve, I also had the pleasure of releasing Franklin back into his natural habitat… a memorable experience.
KG the rescued Hawksbill turtle, released back into the ocean
I have also spent time this month assisting our coral team, Sam and Sophie. In 2016, 80% of the corals here in the Maldives (and worldwide) experienced a massive bleaching event, and the mission of our coral team is to restore our coral reefs by transplanting from healthy coral colonies. They have taught me a lot about the different species of corals, collecting and transplanting them onto coral frames both on land and in the water, although transplanting in the water is a little bit tricky and it’s something that I have yet to perfect. We also did an extra special dive together to transplant coral on our Xmas Tree frame this year on Christmas Day!
I have also really enjoyed going on our snorkelling and dolphin excursions with the guests. Meeting people, young and old, from all four corners of the globe, educating and showing them our rich marine biodiversity and sea life has been wonderful. It’s been an eventful and amazing first month, with each day filled with new experiences and learning, under the careful instruction of a dedicated team of marine biologists.
As I write this, I can’t wait for what tomorrow will bring! (Read my second chapter).