Monday, July 21, 2008

Half Moon at the Full Moon

This past Friday night was a lovely full moon and some of our patrols headed out to Half Moon Bay on the east coast of Antigua to meet up with the 2nd Antigua Boys Brigade. Half Moon Bay is one of our monitored turtle nesting beaches, and the boy scouts had planned one of their summer camping trips hoping to help out with turtle patrols. Their leader, Mr. Campbell Coates, is a member of the EAG and was keen to get his young recruits involved in turtle watching. The scouts would help out by walking the beach at intervals throughout the night, checking for signs of turtle nesting - tracks, new nests, or if we were lucky, a nesting hawksbill turtle. Donald, one of our volunteer patrollers and I arrived at Half Moon Bay a little before sun down and we could see the scouts setting up camp on the far end of the beach. There were about 18 young boys, all clearly excited to be spending the night out there. We gave a short talk on turtle nesting and then set out on our second patrol with some of the boys. Even though they had asked questions before they were all keen to know exactly what we were looking for. Almost none of these boys had ever seen a turtle before.
We couldn't help but be amused as these 14 year old kids addressed each other as "Sargeant" and "Private" during the patrols and then called for a retreat every time they neared the old hotel ruins. Later that night our scouts' Leader, Campbell found a hawksbill nest that we had missed that had probably been deposited just two nights before. I guess that's why he's the leader! There were no turtles to be seen that night but it looked like everyone had a good time exchanging tales under the full moon and braving the darkest corners of Half Moon Bay.
We'll look forward to seeing these scouts again!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Turtle Patrols out on the Beaches

The majority of turtles found nesting on our beaches are either Hawksbills, which are renowned for their golden brown shell,

or Leatherbacks, the largest and most impressive of turtle species.

Sea turtles live in the water their entire lives, but return to land as adults to lay their eggs. This short time on land is an important opportunity for collecting information about them.

Six turtle nesting sites around Antigua have been under the close watch of volunteer beach patrols since the nesting season began in April. About a dozen volunteers including about six new recruits make up the patrol teams this year. Many patrollers have no previous experience and have been trained from scratch in sea turtle conservation and nesting habits, enabling them to identify turtle tracks, nest sites, and collect important data on nesting patterns on our beaches. Patrols will continue throughout the turtle nesting season until mid-November.

Above, Andrea is shown sorting the contents of a hatched nest on Jabberwock beach. One of the things that motivate our volunteers is the great odds that turtles face in the fight for survival. Juvenile turtles are easy prey for a number of other species including crabs, dogs, mongoose, birds, and fish. Larger turtles however have few natural predators, but often fall victim to human activities. Drowning from entanglement in fishing gear (turtles breather air) or ingestion of marine debris are common causes of turtle fatality. Hunting, as well as destruction of feeding and nesting areas also contributes to their decline. In fact, it is estimated that only 1 in 1000 sea turtles will survive to adulthood and lay her own eggs! Many of the turtles spotted in our waters are in fact quite small, and still have many years ahead of them before they will produce offspring of their own.

Persons interested in volunteering for beach patrols or reporting information on turtle nesting should call the Sea Turtle Hotline at (268) 720 6955.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Welcome to the Antigua Sea Turtle Project!

Sea turtles have roamed our seas for over 110 million years and nested on the Caribbean’s shores long before they were settled. Despite this, sea turtles have become extremely threatened in recent decades. In 2007, Antigua’s Environmental Awareness Group (Antigua’s primary Environmental NGO) launched the Antigua Sea Turtle Conservation Project, an effort to monitor and protect our own endangered turtle populations. The project has two major components: 1) identifying important turtle nesting sites and surveying local nesting populations; and 2) raising awareness of the importance of sea turtles and their coastal and marine habitats.

This blog has been created to spread the word about the work of this project and keep you up to date on our findings. For further information feel free to contact our Project Director and WIDECAST Country Coordinator, Mykl Clovis Fuller by email / Tel. (268) 720 6955. Thanks for joining us!