It’s been almost a year since my last post and I am quite shamed about it. I am back in Tanzania and now working together with a local NGO on conservation and fair trade projects. The first month has been very exciting and after a bit of a slow start I have been become very busy.
During the first month I managed to return back to Zanzibar and volunteer with a small Finnish team at the turtle project in the northern part of the Island. This time I brought with me some instruments to measure hatchlings and larger turtles. My scale was not large enough and I need to buy a new one, but the caliper came handy already when a surprise nest hatched on the beach.
It was actually quite unfortunate happening. A local man had found the nest on some other beach and relocated some of the eggs to the Nungwi beach to a very shallow hole. He had not informed the project about this and so we only learned about it when the baby turtles came out. Only 20 of the 72 eggs hatched on the day.
After the local man dug the hatchlings out of the nest, I started opening the eggs to see what was the development status of them. At this point I opened one egg and realized that the full term hatchling was still alive in there, but not ready to hatch yet. I was very happy that I had had a discussion with one of the co-workers in Thailand project about what to do, if you encounter this situation. Now this information came very handy as I did not want to open more of the heavier eggs in case there were still hatchlings waiting for the right moment.
A third hatchling hatched also from the 7 eggs we took to incubation. I taught couple of the project staff on how to measure the hatchlings and we also counted the scutes. Here we saw what can happen when eggs are in too hot place; many of the hatchlings had anormalities in the carapace scutes. It most likely means also that all the hatchlings of this nest are females.
We agreed with the project that half of the hatchlings can be released to the sea with some of the 4 month old hatchlings. So at the dawn we took the hatchlings around the corner to a quiet part of the beach and let them go. The freshly hatched ones went right away to the sea, but the ones who had spent 4 months in captivity needed time to figure out what is happening. Slowly they crawled towards the sea and in the end all of them disappeared into the dark water. It was very satisfying event.
During our week at the project, we also cleaned a lot of hatchlings and the larger green turtles too. They tend to gather a lot of algie when they are held in the pools. In the wild, the larger turtles would find cleaning stations to get rid of stuff on their skin and carapace, but here, although natural seawater pond, they don’t have this kind of cleaning services.
While we cleaned them, we also took measurements of the carapace and took photos to ID them. These turtles do not yet have ID tags, but luckily the green turtles are very differently colored. This was also a good opportunity to take photos of their faces as it is said that they all have different scute patterns in the faces and can be identified. I want to go back and measure these turtles again in a month so that we can follow their growth.
The week at the project, made me want to help to develop this project and train local staff to take better care of the turtles. So we decided together with the project staff to ask sponsorships for the turtles. I posted this request at the Ekomatkaajat facebook page and right away we found the first sponsor. That is so cool! Thank you Annika Paavola!
Now I can purchase some of the equipment and materials needed to take better care of the turtles. I hope we find more sponsors in coming weeks and it would make me very happy, if by the end we would find a sponsor for all 20 turtles. If you are interested in helping this project to take better care of their turtles, please e-mail me at info (at) ekomatkaajat.fi and I will send you more info.