Hawksbill turtle on beautiful reef Maldives

Fish Lab & Aquaria – Marine Life in the Maldives

In our Fish Lab this month, our yellow boxfish is now undergoing treatment for ‘whitespot’, after initially settling in well. This common medical condition of aquarium fish, also known as ‘Ick’ after the parasite that causes it, is easily treatable through short periods of submersion in freshwater. Repeated over a period of 3 to 6 weeks, this will break the life cycle of the parasite and prevent it from reoccurring.

Plankton Production – Our plankton and algae cultures are used as the main food source for the residents of our Fish Lab.

– Algae – the culture has been productive, with approximately 1600L generated
– Artemia – stable, with 4.5g cysts hatched daily. We are also growing-out a separate culture of adult Artemia to feed our larger predatory fish, including the yellow boxfish and saddleback pufferfish
– Rotifers – average rotifer count of 425/ml (target 300/ml)

Jellyfish – Aurelia aurita

Our jellyfish brood from the 24 September strobilation are growing well (2cm bell diameter), so we have relocated them into the larger 25L Kreisel. They are currently being fed 200ml of Artemia culture twice daily, to grow them for restocking our main jellyfish display tank in the coming weeks.

Seaweed Mariculture – edible sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca)

Our edible seaweed culture trials have not been as successful as hoped. Although the culture is still alive, there is minimal new growth, so we are investigating and researching further methods before restarting our efforts.

Micro-Bubble Trouble

At Kura Huraa, our aquariums, turtle tanks, and coral pools rely on a main water line to draw and circulate fresh sea water from the lagoon. Should the system ever develop a fault, there is a risk of introducing micro-bubbles into the circulation, which can be devastating for aquarium life. This month, the main water line (into the pump) actually started sucking up small amounts of air, highlighting the urgent requirement for a backup system. In case of an emergency, this would allow water to continue circulating, and give greater control over water levels.

Fish Lab Food chain
Marine life Maldives porcupine ray
Marine life Maldives porcupine ray

Megafauna and Marine Life

This month, our Marine Discovery Centre at Landaa has been busy with Resort staff training activities, including orientation days (Front Office) and Four Seasons internships. These include a full tour of the Centre, discussions on our marine conservation programs, and participation in that day’s scheduled activities (for example, coral collection and turtle feeding).

Our trainee biologist program invites guests aged 13 to 18 years for a full day of learning in one of six specialist marine subjects, with the manta and turtle modules aligning with PADI courses. This month, all the participants enjoyed their experiences and conveyed very positive feedback.

We conducted a total of 35 guided excursions this month. Our snorkel trip to Parrot Reef was popular, contributing to the high total of 31 in-water trips that clocked-up 64 megafauna sightings including a spectacular fever (group) of 12 mobula rays. At Kuda Huraa, we spotted a rare zebra shark (Stegostoma tigrinum) thanks to some excellent underwater visibility of 30 metres on one particularly exciting Coral Garden snorkel. Other sightings have included an abundance of black tip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and the small but colourful harlequin filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris).

Ornamental Fish & Shrimp Breeding

Dancing shrimp (Thor amboinensis) – two clutches of eggs were collected this month. Rather than rearing in a small Kreisel tank, we are trialling a normal breeding tank with stone filter aeration and no flow. The first batch is growing well (stage 5 of 8) and the larvae are now developing abdominal appendages (pleopods). The second batch has been negatively affected by overgrowth of algae on the tank floor.

Boxer shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) – one clutch produced this month.

Skunk cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) – one clutch produced this month.

Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) – three clutches of eggs were laid; one batch (20 October) was collected, and the larvae are growing well.

Fish Lab Shrimp breeding cycle
Fish Lab clownfish with anemone Maldives
Fish Lab clownfish with anemone Maldives

Maldives Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation

Green turtle Maldives with Alex

Wild green turtle on the reef, posing with Alex

NOONU sea turtle with satellite tracking tag Maldives

NOONU with satellite tracking tag, posing with Aku

Noonu’s Release

This month, our main event at Landaa was the release of our Olive Ridley turtle patient Noonu, who returned to the wild on 21 October. We were delighted that so many people came to support the event, including guests, staff and invited visitors (from Baa Atoll Council and Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve). We are very grateful to everyone who helped make the event such a popular success, and we extend a big thank you to local news outlets for publishing articles and videos to spread Noonu’s story to the wider public, raising awareness of the threats to Maldivian sea turtles.

Noonu was fitted with a satellite tracking device prior to her release, and she appears to be thriving in the big blue. She soon swam outside the atoll and into international waters, and has now travelled more than 400km from Landaa’s beach. We predicted she would swim northwards with the currents, but she actually headed easterly towards the southern tip of India (as the seasonal monsoon must have changed slightly earlier than usual).

The satellite tag has been providing regular updates and appears to be functioning perfectly, and you can follow Noonu’s journey on our interactive satellite map.

NOONU turtle release with satellite tag

Noonu was successfully released back into the ocean this month, with a satellite tracking tag attached to her carapace

MAW The Turtle and Her 3D Prosthetic Flipper

We provide Maw with environmental enrichment devices (EEDs) for active stimulation, including a variety of objects that can be moved and manipulated; her current favourite is the square. We have introduced live feed (crab) into her diet, promoting hunting behaviours and providing supplementary nutrition. Tactile enrichment has also been introduced by scrubbing her shell, and she is interacting and responding well. We have also added an underwater resting area to Maw’s pool, where she can retreat for a period of reduced stimulation after a busy day.

Presently, our progress with Maw’s prosthetic flipper has been temporarily halted due to a perceived elevation in stress levels. She started exhibiting characteristic behaviours including “apprehensive” avoidance and periods remaining “inactive” but alert.

MAW turtle rescue & rehabilitation Maldives feed

Feeding time

MAW sea turtle prosthetics Maldives harness

Prosthetic harness for MAW

Thais’ Veterinary Visit to Landaa Giraavaru

During Thais’ cross-exposure visit, our turtle team discussed treatment protocols, medication sourcing, research ideas, and much more!

Although my stay at Landaa was all too brief, I was updated on turtle rehabilitation protocols. I was also able to assist in attaching Noonu’s satellite tag, and watch her release… an amazing experience as a turtle veterinarian! These are the moments that make all our turtle conservancy efforts worthwhile. It was interesting and productive to meet Landaa’s experienced resident veterinarian, Dr. Kat, and we performed an exploratory endoscopy and bronchoscopy on Olive Ridley turtle patient Frisbee, a good hands-on learning experience.

Frisbee has been a patient at Landaa for several years and has long-term buoyancy syndrome as well as being a double amputee as a result of entanglement in ghost netting. We have long suspected that Frisbee’s buoyancy syndrome is a result of lung damage caused by the stress of entanglement. Following sedation, we slowly passed the endoscope into his windpipe to look for lung damage, but we could only visualise as far as the glottis.

We also trialled a new treatment for turtle buoyancy syndrome for our hawksbill patient, Artemis, using weights to counteract the extra air trapped in Artemis’ shell (caused by previous entanglement in a ghost net). The weights are enclosed in small pouches of bandage, fixed to her shell with glue, allowing the weights to be adjusted and removed as necessary. Artemis is tolerating the treatment well, but so far, she has shown no signs of improvement in her diving ability.

FRISBEE sea turtle endoscopy Maldives

Maldivian Sea Turtle Identification Program

Identifying marine areas used by juveniles is crucial to the conservation of these species. Analysing our turtle sightings across the years, we find supporting evidence that green turtles live for years in the same sites, for example:

  • Poppy (CM0211) sighted at Aquarium (2017, 2020, 2023)
  • Mason (CM0218) sighted at Hudhuveli (2017, 2023)
  • Birra (CM0365) sighted at One Palm in 2023 (January, March, April, October)

    Siegwalt et al (2020). High fidelity of sea turtles to their foraging grounds revealed by satellite tracking and capture-mark-recapture: New insights for the establishment of key marine conservation areas. Biological Conservation, vol 250. Citation: 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108742 [and PDF]

During October, we received 10 new photo sets submitted by the public. Currently, our database contains uniquely identified totals of: 1473 Hawksbills, 315 Greens and 97 Olive Ridleys (from 5500+ separate sightings taken across the Maldivian atolls).

 

Turtle ID Maldives - unique facial scales

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.

Spotted a turtle?  Share your photos

REEFSCAPERS Coral Propagation & Reef Restoration in the Maldives

Reefscapers coral frames Maldives

Monthly Update Summary

At Landaa during October, we transplanted 34 coral frames, kindly sponsored by guests (15), online (2), and the Resort (17), adding a total of 1440 coral fragments to the reef. We also monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) a total of 404 coral frames. We have also lifted 20 buried frames out of the sand, and replaced 1075 dead fragments on degraded frames (at the Jetty and Parrot Reef sites).

At Kuda Huraa this month, we transplanted nine new frames, kindly sponsored by guests. In addition, we monitored and repaired 397 frames, recycled 50+ old frames, and retagged 42 frames, and removed 10 old frames for recoating and recycling.

Preparation for Coral Bleaching

Climate scientists are increasingly alarmed that the world’s oceans have been significantly warming throughout 2023 (BBC), and this is expected to continue well into 2024. The latest NOAA forecasts for next year are predicting a global coral bleaching event comparable in magnitude to the devastation seen in 2016, when 80% of the world’s corals died.

Seasonally, ocean temperatures in the Maldives usually peak in April, so our Reefscapers teams have already started to implement wide mitigation measures to help lessen the impacts on our propagated corals.

  • The Shipwreck – we’ve started to assess growth rates at a new 16m deep coral refuge that is also surrounded by a sandy seabed, isolated from Drupella and corallivorous starfish (COTs).
  • Cage and Coral Lines – midwater ropes of Acropora and Pocillipora corals, suspended in our deep house reef site with a metal cage  structure (13m deep) with additional hanging ropes.
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