Erin's Monthly Marine Musings

The first month of 2023 went by in a blur… Between regular guest excursions, multiple turtle patient admissions, pigmented coral eggs spawning, and project proposals… the New Year has started with a bang! We also wave goodbye to Erin, and welcome Charlie as our fearless leader.

  • Dance with the waves, move with the sea; let the rhythm of the water set your soul free
    — Christy Ann Martine

Maldives Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation

XANCHI stranded Olive Ridley turtle Maldives Marine Savers
Xanchi was admitted to our Turtle Rescue Centre at Landaa on 6 January, suffering from flipper lacerations.

At the close of January, we were caring for four Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), one Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and zero Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in our Rehabilitation Centre at Landaa.

At Kuda Huraa, turtle stranding season has started with a bang, with four new Olive Ridley admissions, and at the close of the month we had five inhouse patients.
Due to the new arrivals, Ari and Emma have been placed in our largest pool, now divided down the centre. So far, Ari seems shy and uninterested in Emma, but Emma is very curious about Ari! Ari has also been enjoying regular escorted ocean swims out in the open lagoon.

New Turtle Patients

  • 6 January – Xanchi is the first patient of this year’s turtle stranding season, admitted to our Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Landaa. He was found entangled in ghost netting, suffering from a deep cut to his right front flipper.
  • 11 January – Seakid is the first patient this year, admitted to Kuda Huraa. He was found floating on the ocean surface, without serious injury but presenting major buoyancy issues. We hope his appetite improves soon, and we are encouraging diving behaviours.
  • 19 January – Michelangela arrived at Kuda Huraa already missing her front left flipper due to prolonged entanglement. She suffered a cloacal prolapse that was treated and stitched, and then she was sent to our turtle vet Katrina at Landaa for amputation surgery of the rear flipper. Despite all of this trauma, she is recovering well and we are optimistic for a healthy recovery.
  • 23 January – Mora had extensive damage to her right rear flipper (caused by entanglement), which required amputation surgery. She also has a deep cut to the front left flipper, and she is underweight due to prolonged entanglement. With special care and monitoring, we hope to give her the best chance of recovery.
  • 25 January – Burrita arrived at Kuda Huraa with all flippers intact, but with severe buoyancy syndrome. She has been stressed and over-active, and has damaged her nose on the pool wall. We are also applying eye ointment on her corneal ulcer.

[ℹ️]  Why are Olive Ridley Sea Turtles at Risk of Stranding?

Olive Ridleys have a special nesting behaviour, when thousands of females migrate long distances to congregate for mass nesting events known as arribadas (meaning ‘arrival’ in Spanish). One of these rare nesting sites is located on the southeast coast of India, also home to human populations and a fishing industry. Inevitably, fishing boats will discard large amounts of gear – nets, lines, ropes, and floats (collectively known as ‘ghost nets’) – that can float huge distances on oceanic currents. Inquisitive sea turtles looking for food or resting platforms are attracted by the marine debris, and can easily become entangled in ghost netting.

[ℹ️]  When do Olive Ridley Sea Turtles become Stranded?

January marks the beginning of “Turtle Stranding Season” here in the Maldives, during the seasonal dry-weather NE monsoon. All our current sea turtle patients are Olive Ridleys, which is interesting as they are not normally seen in Maldivian waters.

More turtles are found entangled in ghost nets during the January to April period than at other times of the year. Ghost nets are being washed into Maldivian waters from India and Sri Lanka by the ocean currents and prevailing winds, and along with them some unfortunate entangled sea turtles. Most of our sea turtle patients suffer from extensive injuries due to entanglement, or from buoyancy syndrome, which is a secondary issue caused from the prolonged stress of entanglement.

Seasonal Indian Ocean Currents animated GIF graphic

Change in ocean currents between the 2 monsoon periods

Injured Sea Turtle Hotline Maldives Marine Savers
Injured Sea Turtle Hotline Maldives Marine Savers

Sea Turtle Nest Protection – Maldives

  • 15 January night – we received a call informing us of a turtle on the beach at Landaa! On arrival, we found a large female green turtle, around 1.2m in length, digging a nest above the high-water mark. Returning later that night, we found a large volume of sand had been moved, and the turtle had returned to the ocean. The next morning, we located a nest with eggs and fenced-off the area for protection. We are now monitoring the nest and will begin looking for signs of hatching at around the 50-day mark (mid-March).
  • 26 January morning – we received a call to say that signs of turtle nesting had been found on the same stretch of beach. On investigation, this was determined to be a ‘false crawl’ with no nest dug, but we expected the same turtle to return the next night.
  • 27 January – we found further evidence of turtle activity on the beach. One track led to and from a partially dug nest, but tree roots seem to have prevented further digging. Slightly further along the beach, a large area of sand had been disturbed and we managed to locate another nest. Due to the close proximity to the high tide line, we obtained an emergency government permit to relocate the nest higher up the beach, towards the tree line, to reduce the risk of flooding. In total, 95 turtle eggs were removed from the nest and 90 were reburied (five were found broken). This second nest is also under close watch, and we expect it to hatch towards the end of March.
Sea Turtle nest protection and monitoring Maldives

Maldivian Sea Turtle Identification Program

During January, from the 25 new photo sets submitted by the public this month, we were able to add 6 new individuals to our national turtle database, and confirmed resightings of 3 named turtle already in our database.

Our current database now has uniquely identified totals of:
1382 Hawksbills, 298 Greens and 97 Olive Ridleys (from 5400+ separate sightings, across 17 different atolls of the Maldives).

Spotted a turtle?  Share your photos

Submissions consist of close-up photographs of the turtle facial profile, enabling us to outline the unique pattern of scales (scutes) that act like a human fingerprint.

Turtle ID Maldives - unique facial scales
BURRITA rescued Olive Ridley turtle Maldives Marine Savers
Burrita arrived at Kuda Huraa on 25 January, suffering from severe buoyancy syndrome.

REEFSCAPERS Coral Propagation & Reef Restoration in the Maldives

Reefscapers coral biologist Maldives artificial reefs

Ale, our Reefscapers coral biologist at Kuda Huraa

Reefscapers coral biologist healthy coral frame

We maintain and photograph our artificial reefs regularly

Monthly Progress

At Kuda Huraa during January, we transplanted 13 new guest coral frames, kindly sponsored by guests (11), and online orders (2).

At Landaa this month, we transplanted 62 new coral frames, kindly sponsored by guests (44), the Resort (13), and online orders (5), using a total of 3764 new coral fragments.

Guest sponsors included a very generous corporate sponsorship of 35 medium-sized frames, completed thanks to a huge team effort collecting corals, constructing frames, outplanting, and monitoring, so a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone involved 🙏

In addition, we monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) 199 coral frames at various sites around the island. We have also been recycling and lifting coral frames around Landaa, and retransplanting 500+ coral fragments at several of our sites (Voavah, Dive, Elephant).

Read our Reefscapers Diaries for further details and photographs of our ongoing coral propagation efforts and reef regeneration experiments, both in the Lab and out in the lagoon, updated each month.

New Beginnings: Our 13 minute coral spawning video was released on YouTube and social media this month, detailing our research and the coral spawning process here in the Maldives.
To date, our video has clocked up over 1000 views! 🧡 

Reefscapers coral colony close-up frame

Close-up of a healthy coral colony growing on a Reefscapers frame

Reefscapers coral frame healthy heart

Perfect picture of a healthy heart! 💜 Heart-shaped RK0047 at Kuda Huraa, planted in December 2020 (photographed here Feb ’23)

Junior Marine Savers activities

Further News & Updates

You might also be interested in:
– our ongoing Dolphin ID Project,
– our specialised Sea Turtle Lagoon Enclosure, and
– our Zooplankton Monitoring Project

Looking for details of our Reefscapers coral propagation and reef restoration program ? Then head over to our Reefscapers Diaries for all the latest updates.

You can sponsor your own frame and see photographs (updated every 6 months) in our Coral Frame Collection.

Junior Marine Savers activities: (1) Reefscapers corals, (2) turtle care.

Junior Marine Savers children turtle care Maldives
XANCHI stranded Olive Ridley turtle Maldives Marine Savers