Beach sitting and survey, local awareness
This project is very important and has to see the day. Comoros and especially Moheli are considered as one of the most important breeding ground for green turtles in the Indian Ocean and a sanctuary for the very rare hawksbill turtles. Moidjio CRCAD is trying to get involved in the conservation of this fantastic creatures. Without saying that they were contemporary to the Dinosaurs, making them one of the oldest genera on earth, without saying that their nesting behaviour sustain a land and reef ecosystem, without saying that their feeding behaviour sustain sea-grass meadows dynamics, without saying they are an example of bravery for us lazy humans (1000's of miles migration), they are just beautiful and amazingly cute. What would be a dive without a turtle, what would Nemo have done without it friend the turtle. Marine turtles are represented and respected by many cultures and religions, it is a symbol for many and an icon for other. Marine turtle are worth saving.
Our programme has a double bill, we are studying them and are implementing a great conservation effort.
Moheli and Comoros in general are very poor and eating meat is an extra bonus on the daily diet. It is expensive as well for the people as much as £2 per kilos and that is much more than what people earn in a day. Turtles are easy prey when coming to lay eggs and a mature turtle represent 30-60 kilos of fresh meet. In addition, at it disadvantage, turtles have the reputation of being very good and a to provide a legendary aphrodisiac power. One hunted turtle is reselling for £60-120 which is maybe 2-3 months salary.
As well as the meet, poacher are taking the eggs of the kill plus any other nests around... leaving very little chance for population to sustain. On Comoros it is approximatively 1000 turtles that are eaten every year and that an optimistic estimation, we think that it is 3X this amount. Turtles are protected by national and international laws and the marine park of Moheli is supposed to be a sanctuary for them. But again money is lacking and patrol aren't possible.
Role of Volunteer
Turtle nesting activity:
1) Location of the nesting beaches on the 4 islets, study of previous research on subject, delimitation of nesting areas with GPS and geo-referenced maps.
a) Nesting beaches will be recorded during nesting periods (peak and low) on the 4 islets by track observation. b) Each beach will be geo-referenced by GPS, and a descriptive card will be created showing potential nesting ground, pictures, sand colour and texture, general features of benthic areas and surrounding vegetation.
2) Species identification of nesting turtles.
a) For each recorded track, species will be identified, parallel (green turtle) or oblique track (hawksbill turtle). b) This part is important for the statement of Hawksbill nesting activity. This species endangered worldwide and is in a critical position there. In the Comoros, few nesting sites still exist, So it is crucial to record and protect them as soon as possible.
3) Rate of nesting activity, average nestings per night for two different periods (busy and quiet period).
a) Local data will be studied if available and data will be collected by volunteers. b) Each beach will be checked early every morning for a period of 3 consecutive months for the two seasons. The survey will include the number of turtle climbings, number of successful nesting and number of emergences of hatchlings.
4) Human impacts evaluation.
a) Evaluation of poaching activity, surveys within the community and carcass counting. b) Assessment of turtle watching activities, both by individuals and in organised groups. Some very harmful habits still occur on important sites and control is poor.
5) Tagging , photo-ID As We will be on site most nights, we will be able to tag turtles (according to funding).
6) Suggested conservation action plans for local authorities.
Sea-grass meadows, feeding area.
1) Location of sea-grass meadows around the island of Moheli, a study of previous research on the subject and delimitation of the areas with a GPS and geo-referenced maps.
a) Study and collection of previous investigations. b) The method will include, using a GPS and geo-referenced maps of the area, tracing the borders of the plant covered areas around the island. c) The completion of this study will achieve a clear assessment of health and size of the foraging area resources for marine turtles and other endangered species as Dugong. Results could be compared to previous studies in order to evaluate potential surfaces regressions.
2) Composition analysis, identification of species and settlement study, substrates identification.
a) Identification of species will be done according to Den Hartog’s (1970) and Philip’s (1988) publications (sea-grass identification) and other books on marine Flora. b) A study of flora settlement and substrate identification will be carried out using random longitudinal transect, running perpendicular to the beaches, The GPS will then be used to determine sample points every 3 metres. A square of one metre side will be disposed on the ground at these points and plant species within will be identified, counted and the substrate determined. c) Data will be recorded on maps and analysed to produce a plant settlement strategy. Stratification in relation to the substrate will also be noted with an indicator of dominance and density. Comparison with previous study will allow an estimation of species dominance turn over and succession.
3) Healthiness, algae invasion and general state of the meadow and plants.
a) During the data collection, health check up of the meadow will be investigated with reference to general state of the plants body, roots and rhizomes, algal identification and assessment of the causes of its proliferation . b) The conductance will be given for each site, relating to the influence of fresh water in the area (high and low tide, raining and dry season). Ph and nitrate level will be also recorded. c) Trends in meadows’ evolution, possible future and sustainability, surrounding human activities and environmental impact of these will also be considered.
4) Fauna identification, trying to find a link between species requirement and biotopes, find bio-indicators of meadow health,
a) Following the longitudinal transects, described earlier, a square of 1 m side will be positioned on the ground and all ground macroscopic animals will be sampled and identified in the laboratory. Swimming visitors will be also recorded but identified on site. Each GPS point will have a number corresponding to a sample box. b) Species identification and location in the meadows will allow species stratification appreciation and a land occupation evaluation. The study of species living requirements could be a key to determining pollution levels, ecosystem synergy and trends in sea-grass meadows’ evolution.
5) Turtle photo-identification, using underwater video camera. Following a turtle colony in feeding phase on the N’Gouja sea-grass meadow over a period of 2 years.
a) Turtles will be identified by filming short sequences, using a camcorder mini DV Canon MV 630i and a housing Digital Ikelite, the pictures (portraits r and l, shell and general attitude) will then be extracted from the film. b) Population turnover. The re-capture rate of turtles still frequenting the area will give a good indication of population turn over. c) A 2 year study will be useful for studies of migration, determination of the non migrant population, and the period of stay for migrant, short term visitors. d) Sex ratio, explanation of sex balance compared to the one expected. Evaluation of young population and population replacement. e) Tagging of untagged turtles.
7) Impact of grazing using field analyses, measuring the impact of grazing on sea-grass populations.
a) Patches of meadow will be closed and the evolution of the meadow will be recorded without pressure of large grazers, turtles, birds, dugong, dolphins, urchins… and human footing, boat anchoring. b) 1 m² plastic grills of 1cm mesh will be randomly dispatched in a few meadows, preferably meadows unfrequented by humans to avoid contamination of the results. c) Patches will be checked every week, for 1 to 2 year period, and species will be identified, numbered and measured.
8) Human impact study.
a) Human activities surrounding the beaches will be surveyed and analysed for their potential harm to sea-grass meadows and turtle populations. Field work will be done in order to estimate the impact of direct and indirect local activities, such as fisheries, hotels, restaurants, villages (number of inhabitants, waste management, toilets facilities), plantations, cattle breeding, tourism, recreational uses (beaching, diving, wind surfing, sea scooters…). b) An action plan for conservation and sustainable use will be suggested to the local authorities. It will incorporate all the laws and guides of good practice, sites importance, actual disturbances and tourist opportunities. The suggested conservation plan will be showed to local community, villages’ authority, associations, and the environmental part of the government.
Time will be split between tents on the beach of Moidjio C.R.C.A.D. and just on the nesting beach.
Conditions are simple and rudimentary, based on the traditional way of living and with a focus of living in an environmentally friendly, low impact way.
On site facilities are basic! No electricity or running water, loos are rudimentary .
Possiblity to shower on site using thermal showers (heated by the sun), or in the near village after expeditions.
Lighting is provided by oil lamps, candles and camp fires. Food is organic, traditional and fresh, and all prepared and served to you.
Accomodation in the near village of Nioumachoua can be provided if required with electricity, water some extra comfort (£70 extra/week) but you will miss the contact with nature and talks with the nocturnal Lemurs.
Several airlines fly to Comoros. Moheli does not have an international airport so you will need to fly to either Mayotte or Grande Comore (neighbouring islands) first. From there you will then be able to take a short local flight to Moheli. The airport on Grande Comore is called Moroni, on Mayotte it is called Dzaoudzi. There are direct flights from Europe to Mayotte, however, there is also the option to change at Nairobi (Kenya). This occasionally comes up cheaper than the direct flights and is a good option if you are planning to travel aorund the African mainland. You might like to check out some of the airlines and routes below.
NB. If you are a student or under 26 yrs old then book through STA travel! They are an international student travel agency and can get you huge discounts on your flights. They have saved me hundreds before and are also good at finding routes. They have a website, but this does not contain all of their destinations. If you can it’s best to get in to one of their offices, or from the website you can request a callback from an advisor.
You also can try any trailfinders, they are very fast and will advise you on the best prices and routes.
KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines)
They operate flights from London to Mayotte, via Amsterdam and Nairobi.We generally find that they are the cheapest and simplest options, with prices starting from £674 (including all taxes and booking fees).
We have found some really cheap flights too as low as £495 return.
This is a French airline which flys from Paris to Mayotte.
They have flights direct from Paris to Mayotte or Grande-Comore. It is a very simple route but can be pricey.
Fly from London to Grande Comore via Sana’a. This may require an over-night stop, but if it does then you will be accommodated in a hotel by the airport and this will be included in the price. Set price of £993.30 all inclusive. They don’t have online booking, but you can call them on 020 73233213.
London to Mayotte via Paris and Nairobi. From £869
These are the ones that we know about. There of course may be other direct flights from other parts of Europe. So far this has worked out more expensive when travelling from the UK but of course if you are coming from elsewhere then one of these places may be more convenient for you.
Travelling to Moheli from Mayotte or Grande Comores.
Once you are in Mayotte or Grande Comore you will have to catch a short local flight across to Moheli. The local flights are operated by Comores Aviation( www.comoresaviation.com). Flights cost from around £200 from Mayotte, but are much cheaper from Moroni (around £80-100). The website advertises that you can book through it but this function is often broken, telling you that there are no flights on that day. We can help you when booking tickets with this airline if needed.
Green turtle research assistant: £200 per week
Includes: Accomodation in bungalows and/or tents, food (3 meal a day), transport from airport to field station, boat hire and petrol, guides, scientific training, excursions.
**Price do not include Visas & travel insurance or international transport/flights to get to Moheli.