Protecting marine turtles and their habitat

2011 News

11 November – Talking turtle with Episkopi Primary School!

Impressive artwork from Episkopi Primary School!

Friday morning saw Linda and Ruth making a very enjoyable return visit to Year 1 at Episkopi Primary School.  Many thanks to turtlewatch volunteer Nicky O’Regan for organising the visit.  The pupils had worked hard to discover lots of interesting things about turtles and it was a pleasure to talk with them about the turtles in the area and to be able to respond to so many well thought out questions.

7-10 November – 4th Mediterranean Sea Turtle Conference, Naples

This years’ conference again attracted many of the people and organisations at the forefront of turtle conservation in Europe.  We are indebted to Kostis Grimanis (MEDASSET) and Robin Snape for their support in agreeing to present our work on turtle mortality and the associated population survey findings to date.  The presentation can be viewed  by clicking on the following link. Turtlewatch presentation to 4th Mediterranean Turtle conference Notably also at the conference turtlewatch trainer and advisor, Andreas Demetropoulos, was awarded for a life time of service to turtle conservation in the region.

6 November – Aloha Divers Treasure Hunt

Into the deep!

Gas is not the only thing being hunted for off the Cyprus coastline!  Sunday 6th November witnessed a host of scuba divers set out from Aloha Divers in Limassol in order to scour the sea bed for buried treasure.  There were no gold doubloons or parrots to be seen but Lucy, the resident Aloha cat, kept a watchful eye as the divers retrieved a variety of prizes including diving courses, horse riding experiences, wine, T shirts and some delicious free meals.  The event was organised by Aloha owner Steve Rumbsy and his staff with all prizes donated by local businesses.  The day was not just about having fun though: between them the participants also raised €380 which they then presented to Episkopi Turtlewatch.

We would like to thank Aloha for all the effort that they put into making the day such a success.  It is good to see staff and customers actively supporting the preservation of the marine environment. The donation received from Aloha will be a great help in financing our activities in the coming year.

 

26 September – Final scores!

The nesting part of our season is now closed and our last nest, nest 8, was excavated on 10th September.   It was great to see so many old and new volunteers down at Tunnel Beach to check on the result.  We were also very appreciative of the couple of publicity seeking hatchlings which loitered in the nest long enough for our new families to get a look at them taking their stroll to the sea and first ever swim!    The nest was from a Loggerhead turtle and had been hatching steadily over several nights so we confidently expected it to be empty when we opened it up.  The purpose of an excavation is to evaluate the success of the nest.  However, if we find any healthy hatchlings still in the nest they are always released to walk to the sea. Walking down the beach helps the imprinting process which allows the hatchlings to find their way back to Episkopi when they reach breeding age. It also helps to get their muscles working so that they are ready to swim when they reach the sea.

The results of the final nest and of all the others are summarised below.   The number of Loggerhead nests was a disappointment but in view of the large number of deaths of green turtles in the area it was good news to see two nests on our beaches.

Nest Summary Caged Total Eggs Hatchlings DIN LS ES Success %
1 Long G 12-Jun 107 33 8 20 46 30.84%
2 Tunnel L 22-Jun 56 8 0 0 48 14.29%
3 Lemmings L 24-Jun 92 75 1 1 15 81.52%
4 Tunnel L 27-Jun 36 4 28 3 1 11.11%
5 Tunnel L 06-Jul 106 48 8 23 27 45.28%
6 Tunnel L 10-Jul 93 69 0 13 11 74.19%
7 Long G 14-Jul 112 101 0 2 9 90.18%
8 Tunnel L 23-Jul 86 58 4 12 12 67.44%
Total outcome 688 396 49 74 169 57.56%

G=Green Turtle, L = Loggerhead Turtle, DIN=died in nest, LS= died at a late development stage,

ES = infertile eggs or eggs which stopped developing at a very early stage

8 September – In with the white roses and out with the red!

It’s time to say a big hello and welcome to all our new recruits from 2 Yorks and, also, an equally big thank you and goodbye to our volunteers from 2 Lancs .  Many thanks also to the lovely  Vikki from “The Hive” at Episkopi for inviting us along to the ‘new arrivals fair’.  Linda and Ruth had a great time meeting and chatting with lots of new volunteers.

Nest 7 on Long Beach Paramali was excavated on Sunday morning and proved to be a great success story.   The nest was our second green of the season and 101 out of 112 eggs hatched giving a much higher than average 90% success rate.  Those hatchlings, including a few released on Sunday, made it quickly and safely to the sea.  Hopefully some of them will be back to breed in about 30 years time!  Nine of the remaining eggs were infertile and just two failed to fully develop.

Unfortunately, it seems that it is impossible to give you an update without including some bad news.  On Monday a dead adult green male turtle was found floating in the sea at Tunnel beach.  It had clearly died as a result of having been trapped in a fishing net.  This brings our total deaths to 22 so far this year.  We understand that Akrotiri also has at least 15 recorded deaths.  We continue to discuss means of improving this situation with the SBA and the issue of improving protection in the area will again be raised with the Standing Committee of the Berne Convention on the 9th September.

3 September – six nests down, two to go!

For those of you who could not make the excavations of nest 6 on Tunnel sorry but you missed a treat!  The outcome was as follows and the successful hatchlings included seven uncovered on the day.  All were in good condition and made their own way down to the sea and away.

Total Eggs Successful hatchlings Died in Nest Died at a late development stage Infertile
Nest 6 93 69 0 13 11

The success rate was 74% which is very good and more typical of our usual levels.  We hope that nest 7 will prove similarly successful. Unfortunately during the week we found another dead green turtle at Long Beach which showed signs that it had been caught in a net, survived it, but then was deliberately killed by a blow to the head.  More positively nest 7 on Long beach (which is from a green turtle) does appear to have hatched well and we shall be excavating it within the next few days.

28 August – excavations overshadowed by deaths.

Nests 4 and 5, both from loggerheads, were excavated earlier this week.  Unfortunately the results from both were below normal success levels.

For those of you who missed the excavations of those nests the outcomes were as follows:

Total Eggs Successful hatchlings Died in Nest Died at a late development stage Infertile
Nest 4 36 4 28 3 1
Nest 5 106 48 8 23 27

As you can see the results were disappointing.  We would have preferred to excavate nest 4 several days earlier than we did but were prevented from doing so by the terms of our SBA issued licence.  Had we been to excavate the nest just two days earlier it is highly probable that all 28 that died in the nest would have survived.  We shall be raising the issue with the SBA environment department.

Unfortunately during the week we also found two dead adult green turtles at Curium Beach.  Both showed signs that they had been caught in a net, the second had obviously survived the net and was deliberately killed by a blow to the head.  The police also received a call reporting a dead turtle at Akrotiri yesterday.  We have now had 20 deaths in Episkopi area alone since 22 May and all of these were clearly related to fishing activity.  There have been 15 deaths recorded at Akrotiri.

22 August – Ninja greens outwit night vigils!

Nest 1 on Long Beach was excavated on Sunday morning.  It was, as expected, a nest laid by a green turtle. The results showed that there had been 107 eggs in the nest.  Unfortunately 46 of these were infertile and 20 stopped developing at an early stage.  The remaining 41 eggs hatched successfully and 33 of them made it to the sea unaided.  Unfortunately 8 found the struggle to the surface too difficult and died in the nest.  The result was a little disappointing but we can at least say that 33 hatchlings of a highly endangered species did make it to the sea because their nest was protected. We also know that they have high levels of cunning as they all manage to evade the watchful eyes of volunteers on night vigil duty!

20 August – Turtle frenzy at Lemmings

Nest 3 on Lemmings proved to be very successful with 74 loggerhead hatchlings making a mad dash to the sea from 92 eggs.  1 hatchling died attempting to get out of the nest and one died at a late stage of development.  The remainder were not viable eggs.

The nest hatched well and thankfully showed a better outcome than nest 2 which was excavated earlier today.  That nest was very small and contained only 56 eggs.  Just 8 of the eggs were fertile and hatched successfully.  The remainder were infertile.  This is an unusually poor result.  Possible explanations are that the mother was old (although the size of her track and the nest size suggest otherwise) or she was unlucky in her mating partners.  Well done and thanks to Carolina and friends who saw the turtles that did hatch safely to the sea.

A few people have asked why the excavations take place when they do rather than fitting in with the working week.  The terms of our conservation licences are strict and we are required to perform excavations a specific number of days after a nest begins to hatch.  We are also unable to excavate early morning or early evening in case we find live hatchlings in the nest.  This is because these are times when fish are feeding (some like to eat hatchlings) and also when fishermen have nets out.  Fate usually allows us to conduct some excavations at weekends and we will be sure to let members know of any that fall on these days.

31 July 2011 – Nest 8 arrives but also more deaths

We now have nest 8 of the season.  It is from a loggerhead turtle and it was found by Sara on Tunnel beach on Saturday morning.  It looks as if we may be in for a long season this year as there are still turtles poking their noses ashore looking for somewhere to lay.  It is therefore important that we fill the gaps in our beach walking rota in August.

We are especially short of people to walk Curium.  This does require an early start (ie no later than 6am) but it is an easy beach to walk and quite fun at that time of day.  We have had some tracks reported this year and it would be a great pity to miss a nest – in the past we have regularly had 3 nests a year on this beach. If you do walk Curium please remember to text Ruth so that she knows that it has been done. Alternatively text her before you start the walk and then just call her if you spot a track. Her number is 99 177318.

We are now also rapidly approaching the time when the first few nests laid will begin to hatch.  We have now put the night vigil rota online so that you can insert your name if you want to take part.  Existing volunteers will receive an email from our hotmail account inviting them to view the rota within the next few days.   If you do plan to do a night vigil please familiarise yourself with our guidelines which are in the volunteer guide section.  It very important that you follow these since turtles will still be trying to come ashore to lay as the first nests hatch.  If you are moving around a lot and showing white lights you will scare them away and your presence on the beach will be doing more harm than good!

Morning beach walkers looking for fresh nests can also assist us at this time of year by checking around existing nests for signs of hatchling tracks coming out of the nests or signs of big dips in the tops of nests.  Predicting hatching dates is guess work and we can get it wrong.  If you report signs of hatchlings to us we can make sure that if the hatching is earlier or later than anticipated we still monitor it properly.

For those of you who are new to the process, all hatchlings from a nest do not generally emerge simultaneously or even all on the same night so even if people sitting on a nest do see some on that night there is every chance that there will be more to see for one or two nights more.  Prior to the vigils starting we will also ensure that the number of each nest is clearly marked so that you can find it.  It is in fact very sensible to check where the nest is in daylight as even with numbers they can be difficult to spot once the light begins to fade.

Finally, unfortunately we have another three dead turtles to report.  One was a female loggerhead found on the stones at Curium beach.  It showed signs of having been trapped in a net.  Thanks to Ruth for dealing with it.  A second was a juvenile green pulled out of the water at Curium later that day by the lifeguard team.  The Third was a juvenile loggerhead washed ashore at Lemmings.

 

16 July 2011- Second green of the year!

Nest 7  appeared on Long Beach on 14th July and was the second laid by a green turtle on that beach this year.  Well done Nick for calling that one in and for not falling into the massive crater she left behind!

Unfortunately, however, we do have to report the death of two adult loggerhead turtles during the past week.  The first had been deliberately killed by a targeted blow to the skull.  It did in fact manage to crawl ashore alive at Curium beach but died shortly afterwards despite Ruth and Denis’ best efforts.  The second appears to have drowned after becoming entangled in a fishing net.   Thanks are due to Andreas Orountiotis, the head lifeguard at Curium, for his assistance in helping to deal with this and many other issues at the beach.

We expect the first batch of nests to start hatching sometime during the first week of August and so we will be uploading a “night vigil” rota and sending you a link to access it if you would like to get involved.

On other fronts we have been asked to prepare a presentation for the 4th Mediterranean Sea Turtle Conference covering our discovery of a new foraging area for green turtles and also to write an article for MEDASSET’s publication “Turtle Dives”.  We shall also be attending the “New arrivals” fair for 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in early September where we hope to swell our ranks with a few new recruits to replace volunteers departing with 2 Lancs.

10 July 2011 – Round two of nesting!

The nesting season now appears to be progressing quite steadily.  Since our last update we have now had three more nests laid, all of which are on the east side of Tunnel beach.   The first (nest 4) was laid on 27 June , the second (nest 5) on 6 July and the third (nest 6) early this morning.  Well done to Sharon, David and Katie for calling those in.  The three nests are all from loggerhead turtles. Nest 5 is actually from the same turtle that laid nest 2 and it also looks likely that nest 6 is a second nest.   Alongside this we have also had lots of tracks and nesting attempts on all our beaches including we are glad to say Curium although illegal overnight camping is causing a problem for turtles trying to lay.  There are at least two more loggerheads and one green trying to nest at the moment so please do keep your eyes peeled!

Thanks largely to some fairly windy days we are also relieved to report that we have found no more dead turtles.  We did manage to find a gap in the weather to carry out an aerial survey earlier in the week.  Thanks to Gill Brobin(winner of the raffle after the beach clean) for helping us out with that one.  We were lucky enough to spot at least 84 turtles during the flight.  The majority of these were spread across the area between the tavernas at Curium Beach and the west end of Avdimou Beach so if you are out on the water in that area do please keep your eyes open and remember to fill in a sighting form if you do see any turtles.  Forms are available at Lemmings and Tunnel Beaches.  There is also a copy in the volunteer guide section of our website.  We call into the various outlets to collect the forms at least once a week and there will also shortly be a post box attached to the yacht club at Tunnel where you can deposit them.  Alternatively scan the form and email it to us or failing that just email the details of what you have seen.

A few people have been asking us how they can spot whether a turtle has laid or not.  A good starting point is to take a look at the existing nests – the ones on Tunnel offer the best examples as the tracks there tend to remain visible for some time due to the type of sand and its sheltered position.  Also take a look at some of the photographs on the website and on the flickr link from it.  In general the nests show the following.

  1. A track from the sea (or from a succession of aborted digs) which starts to vanish under a sprinkling of sand.  This is where the turtle has stopped and facing away from the sea she has dug down to the wet sand to make an egg chamber.  The sand sprinkled back over the track is from this digging.
  2. A smooth area of sand almost arc shaped, which sometimes may actually be a mound, where no tracks are visible.  This is where, having laid her eggs in the chamber the turtle slowly turns around to face the sea and as she does so she throws back lots of sand behind her to disguise the nest area.
  3. A hollowed out area of sand next to the smooth area.  This is the area that the concealing sand has been thrown back from.  For a green turtle the hollow takes on crater like proportions.
  4. Finally, emerging from the hollow a track which leads straight back to the sea.  Once she has laid her eggs the turtle has completed the task she came ashore for and wants to get back to the relative safety of the sea as quickly as possible.  Her track is only likely to show a deviation if there is something that she is afraid of and she is trying to avoid.

We hope that this helps you understand what we are looking for when we arrive on site with our sticks at the ready and also helps to explain why even if there are a series of “holes” in a track we generally only focus our efforts on the areas around one or two of them.

25 June 2011 – Season now in full swing but marred by lots of deaths!

After a quiet start to the season things have suddenly started to get very busy.  On the positive side we now have two more nests to look after.  Nest 2 was found by the Greenway family this Wednesday on Tunnel Beach.  Nest 3 followed at Lemmings Beach on Friday and was discovered by Helen McCreadie.  Well done to both – especially the Greenways who have been walking the beaches for nearly as long as the coordinators have.  We hadn’t realised it, but apparently it was the first nest they had ever found so we are nearly as pleased as them that at last perseverance has finally paid off!!

In addition to the nests there have also been plenty of tracks for Ruth and Linda to run around after (Good time to skip the country Tony and Frank!!).  Long beach and Lemmings beach have both had crawls from green and loggerhead turtles and hopefully some nests will follow once they find the right “patch of sand”.  Well done to everybody who has spotted and reported a crawl.

Unfortunately, alongside the good news there is also plenty of bad to report.  In the past week alone we have found four dead turtles.  All of them have been juvenile greens and three of them were females close to achieving breeding age.  All had clearly died in the Episkopi area, all were associated with net entanglement and two had been deliberately killed by a blow to the skull.  This means that we have now had eleven deaths in less than one month.  A total which far exceeds the numbers killed to date in the north of Cyprus where there are significant nesting and foraging areas for greens.  The view of the experts overseeing the conservation project in the north is that our foraging area appears to be very significant for juveniles.

In view of this we are determined to continue to press the SBA for better turtle protection measures in our area.  Currently, the SBA is claiming that very few turtles are found in water which is less than 20m deep and therefore there is no point in increasing fishing depth limits.   This suggestion is contrary to what our observations have revealed and to observations of turtles (particularly green ones) in the north of Cyprus and elsewhere in the world.  It is also contrary to what many of you have told us, especially those of you who are active in boating and water sports.  It is therefore important that you do make a report whenever you see a turtle and most importantly that you encourage other non Turtlewatch members to do likewise.  Forms are available at Kingsman’s Cove, at the Yacht Club, from the MTW staff and at Lemmings.  There is also a form in the volunteer guide section of our website and others will soon be available from the lifeguards at Curium Beach.  Alternatively just email us the details of what you have seen (or what your friends have seen with contact details for them so that the report can be verified).  The most important details are date, time, number of turtles and approximate size, approximate depth of water they were in and approximate distance from a landmark (eg 200m off Lemmings opposite telegraph pole etc).

15 June 2011 – Nest 1 finally arrives and it’s a green!

Our nesting season appears finally to be underway – this is one of the latest starts that we can remember!  Nest 1 of 2011 was found by Peter and Chris Draycott on Sunday afternoon. Well spotted!  The nest is in the middle of Long Beach and it very much looks like it belongs to a Green turtle.  Hopefully now she has shown how it’s done a few more will follow suit.  There is certainly at least one more Green on the prowl as the craters on Lemmings yesterday testify and also at least one Loggerhead (possibly two) surveying Tunnel and Long!

Unfortunately we have found 8 dead juvenile green turtles since Zapalo harbour was brought back into use.  Two of them were female and close to breeding age.  Thanks to the recent rough seas those fishing boats have not been out and we have had a temporary lull in the deaths.  This is unlikely to last.   Please be vigilant on your walks and keep an eye out for nets which should not be around.  From 1 June no nets should be in water less than 5m deep.  In general there should be no nets at all in any depth of water from 10am through until 2 hours before sunset.  A few people have asked about this timing given that turtles come ashore to nest at night.  The fact is that the laws are in place to protect fish and not turtles.  However, turtles do spend time in shallow water in the day and this is the only fishing legislation that exists in the SBA which offers slight protection to turtles and therefore we want to see it enforced.

Most violations tend to happen at the weekend but are not confined to it.  Favourite sites for illegal nets are:

Long beach/Paramali – Nets are set from the shore at the west end of the beach, around the “Frog Rock” just offshore and then parallel to the beach.  The water is a maximum of around 3m there.

Occasionally you may also see a boat dropped net parallel to the smaller “Officers Beach”.

Lemmings – Not usually a problem area

Tunnel – boats will sometimes try to set nets after 10am in very shallow water parallel to the main beach.    Also at the east end of the beach look out for items such as plastic containers which don’t drift with the current but remain fixed.  They are often attached to a net which should not be there after 10am.

Curium – After 10am in particular look out for a fishing boat setting nets parallel to the beach.  The operator was caught and apparently prosecuted last year. He has been caught again by Customs this year and so clearly has not been deterred by his punishments so far.

If you are on any beach in the day and see nets being set close to or after 10am please phone Customs (25 276762) and if possible provide a description of the boat, it’s licence number (which begins with LL and should be painted on the boat) and a clear description of where nets are being set.

At the moment the weather conditions keep conspiring against us doing boat and aerial survey work. Our last 5 attempts to get air bound have all had to be cancelled. However, we are determined to get Gill Brobin and Ange Phillips (the winners of the Clean up raffle and the St John’s Fete raffle) up in the air as soon as possible so any influence that you may have on calming waves and lifting fog would be gratefully received!   You can also help by filling in a sighting form whenever you see a turtle and making sure that other people do likewise.  There are forms at Lemmings Cafe, and on Tunnel at Kingsmans Cove watersports and the Yacht Club.  The form is also on our website.

Many thanks to those of you who have volunteered to help out at the Autumn Episkopi fete.  We do now have enough people to man the stand (although more are always welcome) and so I will go ahead and book one.  Thanks also to Katie Sabry who has been rattling a collection tin in front of her students.  Katie also produced the original design for our T shirts.  We also continue to give presentations to just about anybody who asks for one – PALMS in Paphos being the most recent.

13 May 2011 – Island wide support for Curium Beach clean up

Thanks to everybody who has already called to volunteer for the clean up on Saturday 14th May.  This annual event appears to have developed a momentum all of its own and that can only be good news.  This year the event is being sponsored by Sodexo Cyprus which is saving us a small fortune by supplying bags, gloves, water and people.  Episkopi council is also again lending its support. Importantly our efforts are becoming well known amongst the wider Cyprus community which bodes well for the long term success of our conservation efforts.  We would especially like to thank in advance the following Cyprus organisations for lending us their support:

  • Cyprus Women of Today
  • Cyprus Young Greens
  • Cyprus Friends of the Earth
  • Terra Cypria

Thanks also to CYBC, BFBS and Coast FM for publicising our efforts.  Please do drop by and lend a hand if you have the opportunity to do so.  There is no need to book ahead unless you wish to book a place for lunch.

The weather forecast is improving and as they say “the sun shines on the righteous” which is just as well since Episkopi bay is full of mating turtles which want a nice clean beach to nest on!!

12 May 2011- Greens are go!

Our last few flights over the area have shown that there are plenty of turtles about.  Surprisingly a Green from the north of the island that overwintered in the bay and then took off to Polis has come back to Episkopi Bay to mate.  Let’s hope we get a nest or two out of her!  If you would like to see what she has been up to take a look at http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?tag_id=86900.  She has been satellite tagged by the folks from Exeter University.

16 April 2011 – A spring in our step!

Thanks to everybody who dropped by our stall at the St John spring fete.  Despite a relatively low turn- out we had a successful day raising €250 and most importantly lots of new members.  Next stop the beach clean!

23 March 2011 – Episkopi Primary talks turtle!

Year 4 of Episkopi Primary School practice saying "turtle" with Ruth.

Wednesday morning found Linda and Ruth spending a very enjoyable few hours as the guests of Episkopi Primary School.  What was intended as a 30 minute presentation and question and answer session turned into a much longer event without anybody really noticing!  The children have been studying different types of habitat and as a result they had lots of stimulating questions to ask both about sea turtles and Turtlewatch.   Their work did not stop there either!  Following the session the children also produced lots of leaflets and posters which we shall be displaying on our website and also on our information stand at various events throughout the year.  Well done everybody and we look forward to seeing you on the beaches this summer!

 

 

Turtle Survey 2011

We are keeping a record of all sightings reported to in order to build up a picture of where the turtles are at a particular time of day and at each stage of the season.   We believe that this will highlight which areas of the sea should be targeted for special protection measures.  It would help us if whenever you spot one or more turtles in the Episkopi area you would fill in a sighting form.  There are stacks of these available in the club houses on both Tunnel and Lemmings beaches.  Just fill one in and we will collect it from the club.  Alternatively you can download a form on the “Volunteer guides” page and email it to us.  Please try to give specific details, for example if you see several turtles try to give us an estimate of the number rather than simply saying “lots”.  Finally, please remember that the turtles are here to mate and to feed.  If you are lucky enough to see them when you are out on the water observe passively and try not to disturb them.

 

  • By inna theodorou, April 25, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

    what you are doing is very important. contact me,please, if you need and want any help.

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