The last few days of the expedition have been busy! Teams from the night patrols have been bringing eggs back to the hatchery every night. Rosalyn and Frank encountered a turtle with missing back flippers “We had to help her dig the nest” says Rosalyn, “they have apparently encountered her before and her nickname is stumpy.” Leatherback turtles come ashore to lay eggs six to eleven times in a season, but only nest approximately every three years.
“It was magical to watch turtles emerge from the waves and then to see how delicately they use their back flippers to dig a nest” says expeditioner Lindsay. And further “its a real thrill to be there when the eggs drop into the bag for us to take them away to bury them safely in the hatchery. I am so happy, I can’t stop smiling”.
However, we also experienced nests being taken by poachers One tried to dig out a nest that was really close to sea. “He was trying to prevent water entering the nest” describes Neil. But it is not all bad news, because the coast guard arrived and arrested three poachers and gave us the eggs from two poached nests. “This is a big win all around as it not only means we can hatch poached nests, but it also send a message to other poachers that the coast guard does patrol this beach” says expedition scientist Fabian from LAST.
During our time at the LAST research station our team of Biosphere Expeditions citizen scientists put in 60 hours of patrolling the beach and 30 hours guarding the hatchery. During our time here, 18 nests were saved, totalling 1397 eggs. Eight nest were poached, however, the arrests made by the coast guard brought that number down to six and raised our nests saved to 20, resulting in approximately 25% of nests being poached. This is a significant improvement on last year’s 50% poaching rate and a win for conservation.
We could not do this without our citizen scientist volunteers putting in the time and effort, so thank you very much everyone. It was a joy to lead this expedition and I look forward to meeting many of you again sometime, somewhere on our planet, which needs all the help with wildlife and wilderness conservation it can get.