Hatchling scampers to a new live at sea during our 2015 Velaa visit.
Q: What is the best way increase the odds of sea turtle hatchlings surviving?
A: Put them in nurseries to help them grow stronger?
Q: Buzzzzzz! Nope. The fairly common practice of collecting hatchlings and protecting them by nurturing them in special nursery pools turns out to cause long term problems for the turtles.
World Turtle Day today is the opportunity “to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive”. Most people know about the dangers of plastic refuse to turtles (they get caught in six-pack rings and mistake plastic bags for jelly fish which they try to eat). But even those keen to help the critters are less aware of the issues with well-intended turtle nurseries.
The nursery misconception stems from the “numbers game”. As Marine Biologists Tess Moriarty and Dee Bello (who kindly provided most of the research for this piece) from Velaa resort (THE Turtle resort – “Velaa” means “Turtle” in Dhivehi) describes, “For turtles it is always a numbers game, they have many threats to their survival and it is commonly known that many do not make it to adulthood.” The concept of nurseries is to allow the hatchlings to grow to a more significant size where much fewer predators would be able to manage eating them.
Unfortunately, turtle nurseries have a number of problems for the turtles they are trying to help…
- Predator Dangers – Turtles may evade predators when small, but then don’t learn to and how to avoid them later in life which keeps them vulnerable.
- Diet – Nursery turtles don’t get to eat the staples of the normal ocean diet like jellyfish or sargassum.
- Orientation – One of the miracles of turtle procreation is how they instinctively head to the water’s edge on birth, but then also they come back to where they were born to nest s adults. Studies show that taking hatchlings on birth into nurseries disorients them and they don’t return to nest.
So what CAN be done to help these endangered little tykes? Dee offers up the following…
- Hatcheries: This technique is when the nests are relocated from where the female lays the eggs on the beach to a different location. This is used on beaches that have severe erosion or flooding problems and thus the nests would not survive, nests that are too close to the shore line and would get inundated and mostly on beaches where human poaching of eggs for food is abundant. This method actively saves many eggs and ensured they can develop and hatch, thus increasing the number of hatchlings making it to the sea.
- Fencing the nests: Shielding both the hatchery and on the beach deters humans from poaching eggs from the nests as they are under surveillance. It also ensures that there must be someone present to release the hatchlings into the sea when they emerge from the nest and thus predation from crabs and birds is greatly reduced.
- Protection laws: Creating laws that prohibit the killing or possessing turtle products it directly influences their populations. The protection of adult females laying eggs, poaching of the eggs on the beaches and the capturing of turtles in the sea, increases the amount of turtles and nests on the beaches.
Of course, all these measures are focused on the young turtles. But even when they get all grown up, they still could use our help in surviving (especially since human actions cause many of the adult hazards)…
- Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED). Turtles need to breath air in order to survive and unfortunately when they get trapped in nets they are unable to do so. This can be avoided using TED’s where turtles can escape the nets intended for fishing other fish.
- Research: Understanding where turtles migrate to (using advanced tools like satellite tracking), at what times and their feeding and breading patterns can help aim protection to make it more successful and increase awareness.
- Awareness: By spreading the word about the turtle population’s vulnerability, more people understand their situation and need to protect them. This awareness leads to leads to less poaching and donations that support more conservation projects.
World Recycling Day today. Most resorts are recycling the basics these days – glass, paper, plastic, food waste. Others like Kurumba, have introduced more ambitious efforts to be “refuse neutral”. One of the eco-leaders is Soneva Fushi and their eco-charcoal facility. Charcoal for cooking and BBQs is produced out of waste wood from landscaping and construction. In fact, they produce so much that they sell it to other islands.
Earth Day today inspires people to save the Earth, but Soneva Fushi is not only saving Earth making even more. Earth that is. Their industrial scale composting operation produces acres of compost soil which it then uses around the island for its gardening. Just another facet of Soneva’s sustainability immersion.
The first day of spring today as we passed the Vernal Equinox. A natural cause for celebration (especially up north) as the days now get longer than the nights. This celestial event is celebrated in a number of ways from throwing coloured powder (for the Hindu Festival of Holi) to balancing an egg (ancient Chinese belief says that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring since due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, gravitational forces are balanced out).
But spring is especially a time of sprouting and rebirth. The baby lambs have started emerging on the farms in our area. The Mirror describes, “Spring equinox is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in ancient Italy, it was traditional for women to plant seeds in the gardens of Adonis on this day. The custom persists in Sicily, where women plant seeds of grains – lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers – in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on graves on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.”
A number of resorts have offered tree planting on their property, but a few have stopped (running out of space) and others don’t support plaques. I appreciate that such commemoratives need to be done with taste and aesthetic sensitivity, but I do love the notion of being able to leave a positive part of yourself after your departure. Giving a people commemorative opportunities builds the sense of connection to this paradise and a reinforces an enduring empathy and support for its environmental challenges.
Sun Siyam Irufushi does support tree planting accompanied by simple wooden plaques noting the special occasion of the visit (cost is $300).
May your spring blossom with the vibrant colour of the Maldives wherever you are.
Earth Hour today.
“As the world stands at a climate crossroads, it is powerful yet humbling to think that our actions today will decide what tomorrow will look like for generations to come. This Earth Hour, switch on your social power to shine a light on climate action. This is our time to #ChangeClimateChange…our future starts today.”
One of my favourite Earth-friendly initiatives in the Maldives is Gili Lankanfushi’s floating solar panels. One of the challenges to solar power is finding a place to put the surface-area driven collectors. Not a problem in the middle of a desert. But in a densely populated location a bit tricky. Some have tried putting them on roofs. What the Maldives do have is lots of water. And so Gili’s solution is so fitting. It’s sort of a floating solar lilo.
“Gili Lankanfushi is happy to announce its partnership with Swimsol, an Austrian company that specializes in groundbreaking floating solar power solutions. Their idea is to bring green power to parts of the World, like the Maldives, where land space is limited. We are lucky enough to have Swimsol’s largest product so far; a 15 x 15 metre floating solar power platform. The platform itself is an engineering marvel; an innovative floating structure that is designed to survive waves and water turbulence. It consists of glass fibre tubes, aluminum frames and 112 solar panels. Weighing over 5 tonnes, it took nearly one third of Gili Lankanfushi’s hosts to push it into the water. Today after more than two weeks of hard work in the blistering heat of the dry season, the Swimsol team have plugged the largest floating solar platform in the Maldives into Gili Lankanfushi’s power grid. Swimsol’s platform has a nominal capacity of 28 KW and on sunny days it will produce up to 200 kWh, which is enough to power the equivalent of all our pathway and jetty lights, as well as the Front Office lighting for 12 hours! The platform will reduce our carbon footprint by 35 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of 30 return flights from Europe to Maldives per person!””
What better use for a bottle than an S.O.S. message? How about an S.O.S. for the entire planet? Starting with creating a sustainable gardening plot? Kurumba used old beer bottles to build an array of gardening plots on the island giving new eco-friendly meaning to the word “bottling plant”. I guess the “S.O.S.” message in their bottles stands for “Sustainable Old Steins”. Not to mention that they have literally created the infamous song…
A hundred bottles of beer in the wall, a hundred bottles of beer…
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There’s only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
One more sleep until Santa pays his visit to the good girls and boys. The girls and boys at Anantara (Dhigu and Veli) have been so good this year, they made their Christmas tree from discarded coconut husks. It shines in the day from the bright whit paint as well as at night with the constellation of fairy lights. One & Only Reethi Rah also has its own coconut Christmas tree (see below), Anantara has not just one, but three trees.
Furthermore, Anantara has gone a step further with another tree made out of old Evian bottles (see below)!
The three coconut trees on Dhigu are 2.5 meters, 3.4 metres and 5.0 metres high, with the tallest one made from 800 coconuts. The other two trees take up around 400 coconuts between them. The bottle tree is 6 meters high and is made from 720 bottles.
O Tannebaum! You’re Green not only in the summertime…
World Mushroom Day today (who knew?).
As part of its intense focus on sustainability, Soneva Fushi has its own mushroom hut for cultivating a wide varieties of Basidiomycotae and Agaricomycetes. Oyster and other varieties grown from tubes of mulch made by their resort’s recycling plant. The hut interior is kept cool and moist with a light spray of water on constantly.
Putting the “fun” into “fungi” and the “eco” into the “enoki”.
When I first started coming to the Maldives, a few marine biologists kicked around the atolls usually on their own initiative maybe working on some research project. Now, every self-respecting top-fight resort has its own staff “MB” to provide presentations to guests, offer expert tours of the marine life on outings and also to support the resort’s eco-friendly initiatives to keep the reef and island healthy and vibrant.
I’ve meet dozens at this point, but one really stands out – Verena Wiesbauer. We first met her when he gave one of the best presentations on Maldives marine life at Kurumba a number of years ago. . She works as part of the “Eco-Islanders Maldives” organisation that helps resorts with a number of environmentally friendly initiatives especially around reef preservation. She’s the only Maldives MB I know of who is a published author on the Maldives. I’ve already featured her book, “Trees and Flowers of a Tropical Paradise” in one of the “QI – Maldives edition” series posts. In fact, she is a veritable “Maldives QI Elf” being by far the most prominent contributor to the quirky facts of that Maldives Complete series of posts.
In fact, in general, she is the most active MB contributor to Maldives Complete. She is always promptly responsive to questions I have and regularly offers up fun and useful information. Of course, she came into her own when I launched the “Dive Site Complete” feature. I have received material and information from many MBs across the country, but Verena has provided more support and material than everyone else combined (including the comprehensive list of the MPAs).
QI Question of the Day: “In what type of landscape is the Huraa Marine Protected Area found?”
A: The ocean?
QI: <BUZZ> No, the Huraa MPA is a mangrove swamp found o the Huraa island in the North Male atoll.
Think all “Marine Protected Areas” (MPAs) are under water?
Well, one of the MPAs are actually only semi-aquatic. The “Huraa” MPA is actually a mangrove island…
“Huraa Mangrove Nature Reserve (HMNR) has been designated a Protected Area, in recognition of the fact that it is an important natural mangrove habitat which contains species of particular conservation significance to the Maldives and the rest of the world. A human community also live on Huraa Island who is itself affected by the existence of the Nature Reserve, and whose day-to-day life and activities in turn impact on the mangrove ecosystem.”
Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is its namesake neighbour and plays an active role in supporting is preservation.