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It was my greatest pleasure to serve as Sea Turtle Conservation Program Coordinator for
the 2009 sea turtle nesting season. Although it is hard work, it is very rewarding to know
that you have done your part in the conservation of this most endangered species,
however small that part may be. Needless to say that it is only with the hard work of
volunteers, interns and staff that the program manages to be a success.
Many lessons have been learned this year and bearing them in mind it will be possible to
further improve on the successes of the program in the coming years.
This report gives the reader an insight into the program's activities and tries to paint an
accurate picture of the 2009 nesting season.
Hoping to have submitted a complete and interesting report,
Sea Turtle Conservation Program Coordinator
The St Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA) established the Sea Turtle
Conservation Program following concerns that the island's sea turtle populations were
being threatened by anthropogenic disturbance and destruction of nesting beach habitats
through sand mining, joy riding and pollution.
A community outreach campaign was organized in 2001 to begin raising public
awareness about sea turtle conservation issues. Subsequent to this initiative, a beach
monitoring program was started in 2002 in affiliation with the Wider Caribbean Sea
Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST). The first two years of the program saw
very sporadic monitoring of the index beach due to a lack of personnel. In 2003 however,
regular night patrols were conducted following the introduction of the Working Abroad
Program, which brings groups of international volunteers to assist with projects in the
National and Marine Parks. By 2004 the program had expanded to include morning track
surveys on several of the island's nesting beaches, with a dedicated vehicle and a full-
time project coordinator during the nesting season.
Data from the Sea Turtle Conservation Program have shown that three species of sea
turtle regularly nest on St Eustatius; the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the green
(Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), all of which are classified
as either endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN. There has also been an
unconfirmed report of nesting by a fourth species, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta),
which IUCN classes as threatened.
The ultimate objective of the St Eustatius Sea Turtle Conservation Program is to promote
long-term survival of the sea turtle populations on and around the island. This goal is
achieved by safeguarding critical sea turtle habitats, conducting research to provide
policy and decision makers with current, relevant data on the status of sea turtles in the
region, and limiting environmental impacts on nesting beaches and near-shore waters.
One of the most important factors to ensure the success of the project is the direct
involvement of the local community in the program to promote a better understanding of
the importance of long-term conservation, not just for sea turtles but for other locally
The aims of this Annual Report include the following:
Summarize the activities of the 2009 Sea Turtle Conservation Program.
Review the accomplishments and deficiencies of the program in 2009.
Suggest recommendations for the 2010 program.
Provide a summary of the data from 2009 research initiatives.
Present information locally, regionally and internationally about the research and
monitoring program on the island.
Produce a progress report for the Island Government, potential program funding
organizations, the local community and international volunteers.
St Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA)
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program is coordinated by the St Eustatius National Parks
Foundation (STENAPA), which is the main non-governmental environmental
organization on the island of St Eustatius (known locally as Statia). In 1996 STENAPA
was given a legal mandate by the Island Government to administer a new Marine Park
and, in 1998, a new terrestrial National Park. STENAPA also manages the Miriam C.
Schmidt Botanical Garden. The Statia National Marine Park surrounds St Eustatius from
the high water mark to the 30 meter depth contour. There are two marine reserves within
the Marine Park which are designated no-take zones and are in place to protect marine
habitats and reduce fishing pressures. National Marine Park staff conducts regular
patrols and enforcement, maintains dive, snorkel and yacht moorings and conducts many
educational program, such as the Snorkel Club and Junior Ranger Clubs. The Marine
Park is responsible for many research and monitoring activities including the Sea Turtle
STENAPA is a not-for-profit foundation, relying on government subsidies, grants and
minimal income from divers, yachts and hikers to conduct its activities. STENAPA has
only six staff and is reliant on volunteers to run projects such as the Sea Turtle
Conservation Program. The organization is supported by two international volunteer
programs; the STENAPA Internship Program and the Working Abroad Program, which
are discussed in more detail below.
STENAPA Interni.\ip, Programme
Since the inception of the Internship Program in September 2001, over 43 interns from
various countries including Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Holland, Belgium, Hungary,
Germany and New Zealand have helped accomplish projects at the Botanical Garden, in
the Quill National Park and the National Marine Park. Interns are responsible for
overseeing the daily activities of volunteers from the Working Abroad Program, in
addition to managing and completing individual assignments.
Interns are provided with a small monthly stipend, basic accommodation and the use of a
truck during their six-month stay. They are personally responsible however, for all travel
costs and living expenses while on the island. The internships allow students and
professionals to gain valuable practical experience in their chosen field. Without these
dedicated volunteers STENAPA would not be able to conduct many of its projects, since
the Foundation cannot afford the manpower or expertise.
Working Abroad Program Statia Conservation Project
Working Abroad is an international networking service based in the UK that, since it was
founded in 1997, has established volunteer projects in over 150 countries worldwide.
STENAPA started its collaboration with the Working Abroad Program in January 2003,
and to date more than 150 volunteers have been recruited via their organization. Groups
of up to eight volunteers stay for two months and assist in the development of the
Botanical Garden, conduct maintenance of the National Park trails, and during turtle
season, participate in night-time beach patrols. For their stay each volunteer pays
approximately US$1700 towards food, water, lodging, truck hire, fuel and a project
expense fee (this does not include international travelling costs or personal living
expenses during their stay).
Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network
The St Eustatius Sea Turtle Conservation Program is affiliated with the Wider Caribbean
Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST). Founded in 1981, WIDECAST
represents the largest network of sea turtle research and conservation projects in the
world; with members in over 30 Caribbean states and territories. Affiliation provides
access to a collaborative framework of organizations within the region, with emphasis on
information exchange, training and active community participation. WIDECAST
promotes interaction between different stakeholder groups to ensure effective
management and conservation of turtle populations in the Caribbean.
In June 2003, STENAPA Manager Nicole Esteban was appointed WIDECAST Country
Coordinator for St Eustatius, following completion of a training course on St Croix (US
Virgin Islands). Subsequent to this, the St Eustatius Sea Turtle Conservation Program
implemented WIDECAST-approved protocols for monitoring and data collection.
WIDECAST has assisted the program through donation of tags and purchase of PIT tag
applicator. The Sea Turtle Program Coordinator attended the WIDECAST Annual
General Meetings in 2004-2006, and 2008; with funding and logistical assistance
provided in part through WIDECAST.
Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)
Founded in 2005, DCNA represents a formal coalition of the six nature conservation
management organizations of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, with representation
from international agencies, central government and financial experts. Their main goals
are to safeguard the biodiversity and promote sustainable management of the natural
resources of the islands, through the establishment of long-term, sustainable funding
sources. The Manager of STENAPA is currently the chairperson of the DCNA.
Funding agencies and donors
To effectively run the Sea Turtle Conservation Program, the STENAPA Manager and
Project Coordinator allocate approximately 10 to 30% of their time to raise funds to cover
the annual program costs. Fundraising occurs both locally and internationally by
soliciting specific organizations, and by donation requests through newsletters and turtle
The island of St Eustatius is part of the Netherlands Antilles that includes Bonaire,
Curacao, St Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius. It lies in the North-eastern Caribbean, and is
located in the Windward Islands; lying within the longitude and latitude median of 1730
North and 6258 West. The sister islands of Saba and St Maarten stretch out 30km north-
west and 63km north, respectively ( Figure 1).
St Eustatius is 21km2 in size and is dominated by two volcanoes; an extinct volcano
comprising the Northern Hills (150 million years old) and a dormant volcano called the
Quill in the South, formed 2200 to 3200 years ago. As a result of its volcanic origin, the
beaches of St Eustatius all have dark sand.
Gulf of Mexico
T ROPC OF
< -=- ....- .. -"^ t Eustatius
Jama a bean Sea S
Caribbean Sea I5N
300 rl WAB* hnaire
30Dlan ^ .- *
80 /Y ( --'I
Lbc SOUTH AMERICA
Figure 1. Map showing location of St Eustatius in the Eastern Caribbean
Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches: Description and activities in 2009
Sea Turtle activity has been recorded at five beaches on St Eustatius: Zeelandia Beach,
Turtle Beach and Lynch Bay on the Atlantic side of the island, and Oranje Bay and Kay
Bay/Crooks Castle on the Caribbean side.
I .u E111P.
Figure 2. Nesting beaches on St. Eustatius
KAY BAY/CROOKS CASTLE
This beach on the Western or Caribbean coast of the island has been somewhat neglected
over the past seasons as it is not easily accessible and as the bulk of nesting activity
occurs on the Atlantic or Eastern side of the island. Also because of the lack of
accessibility, the program has often relied on private citizens living nearby to alert us
whenever any nesting activity is ascertained.
During the 2009 season however, only once for the season, in the month of August, did
the family call to report tracks on the beach, although in total there were 10 activities
noted by researchers during the entire season.
By using the coastal route, researchers were able to record an additional 9 activities for
which no call was received. This was either due to the absence of the volunteer family or
the fact that they do not check the beach on a regular basis. This also raises the question
of how many activities were missed earlier in the season due to the belief that nesting
activity there was being monitored by willing volunteers.
This seriously calls into question the method of relying on untrained and perhaps less
dedicated observers for accurately recording activities.
One of the main problems with Kay Bay faced in previous years, getting to the beach,
was solved this year as it was decided that even though the walk along the coast to the
beach was arduous due to the rockiness of the area, it was well worth it to not have the
trouble of gaining access to the beach from the White Wall road. The latter entailed,
requesting permission to walk through two private properties, the many loose guard dogs
on the properties requiring the presence of the owners at all times, the long walk down a
rotten and creaky wooden staircase and needless to say having to repeat the process in
reverse when finished with data recording on the beach.
Another important observation made during the 2009 nesting season is that due to the
lack of stakes and or clear landmarks on Kay Bay several confirmed nests could not be
found when the time came for them to be excavated. Because the nests were marked only
with GPS coordinates, they were absolutely impossible to find. The extensive digging
that was done to locate the nests was to no avail as they were never found.
This was very unfortunate and disappointing as from the hatchling tracks it could be
determined that at least two of the three probable nests had hatched.
To solve this problem, the coordinator and intern planted six stakes that run from the
southern most end of the beach northerly towards Crooks Castle. This should enable the
position of any future possible lays and confirmed nests to be more accurately marked.
Because of the intervals in which morning patrols were conducted on Kay Bay, when
researchers did carry out a patrol, there would be usually three or four different tracks
visible. This prompted at least two night patrols on Kay but unfortunately no turtles
emerged on those occasions.
From the experiences this year, several recommendations can be put forward for the 2010
1. Re-stake the beach, if stakes are missing at the start of the season as is done on
the index beach.
2. Conduct morning patrols at least 2-3 times a week on Kay Bay/Crooks Castle
during the hard shell season.
3. Conduct several targeted night patrols on Kay Bay/Crooks when no activity
expected on the main index beach, Zeelandia, or split the patrol if enough
volunteers are available.
4. When there is no stake in the immediate vicinity, researchers should be very
diligent in accurately describing the position of the lay/possible lay including
measurements and additionally a sketch if necessary.
This is a very dynamic sandy beach on the Caribbean side of the island as it experiences
considerable sand movement throughout the year. It stretches for almost 2km and runs
into the harbor at its southern end. The beach is bordered by grass and the occasional
Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera). In addition to several hotels and shops; there are also
ruins of warehouses on the sand and in the near-shore waters along its entire length.
Very little nesting of green and hawksbill turtles occurs on this beach due to the passing
traffic, street lights and near shore restaurants and terraces. This is most likely a deterrent
to females looking for a quiet area to nest.
For most of 2009, there was minimal sand on this beach due to passing tropical storms
and ground sea swells. Besides there being a few longer stretches of sandy areas during
the Easter period, sand was present only in small pockets between some standing walls of
ruins, in front of a section of beach where the dive shop "DiveStatia" is located and on
the small beach next to the City pier.
During the 2009 nesting season, 1 Green turtle (tracks and a nest cavity only) and 1
Hawksbill turtle (tracks only) visited Oranje Bay. Both turtles were witnessed by
members of the public. The Green turtle was seen early in the morning by several persons
and it was deduced that the approach of the onlookers on the beach must have scared her
off as there was an abandoned 30cm deep nest cavity present. The Hawksbill was
witnessed and reported by several persons visiting the Gin House Hotel located
somewhat in the middle of the stretch of Oranje Bay. Unfortunately, they reported it the
following day and no one working with the program had a chance to observe the turtle.
One other aspect of Oranje Bay is that the shoreline is very minimal and slanted toward
the water so that in the morning any tracks that would have been visible on a flatter beach
have long been washed away by the high tide surge. In that way, although you can
monitor almost the entire length of the bay very easily, there are usually no tracks visible
on this beach.
This very small, rocky beach is located around the point to
the south of Turtle Beach; it is approximately 200m long.
There is considerable ground vegetation cover, primarily
Beach Morning Glory and is backed by a sloping cliff
which provides the only access when tides prohibit
movement from Turtle Beach. Unlike many of the other
beaches on the island, Lynch Bay is stable due to the
adjacent reef barrier that provides a natural shelter and aids
sand retention. Green and hawksbill nesting activity has been recorded at this beach, and
it was the site of an unconfirmed loggerhead nesting event in 2004 (I. Berkel, Pers.
Comm.). Due to access issues, Lynch Bay can only be monitored safely during the day.
During the 2009 season Lynch Bay was monitored for activities 7 times but no tracks
were visible on any of those occasions. The sand is of a very gritty texture and tracks are
not very clearly visible even when viewing them the day after they were made.
A member of the public reported seeing a leatherback turtle toward the extreme Northern
end of Lynch Bay but he reported it weeks after the fact and naturally no sign of a track
or nesting activity was found when researchers went to examine the area indicated. The
person did give a very accurate description of a Leatherback turtle without being
prompted, including mentioning that the eyes seem to be sick when he shone the light on
the turtle. It is thought he was describing the salt tears that persons familiar with
Leatherbacks would recognize.
This is the second longest beach on the Atlantic side, measuring
approximately 400m. It links to Zeelandia Beach at its northern
point, and connects to Lynch Bay around a point to the south. It is a
steeply sloping bay subject to considerable sand movement,
especially during the hurricane season (July November). It is
backed by cliffs and there is virtually no vegetation except for
occasional Sea Grape trees on the cliffs. There is a storm water
ghaut in the middle of the beach which was formerly used as the
land-fill for the island. Although not currently used, this ghaut still contains a large
amount of refuse and is open to the beach. Unfortunately, access to this beach at night is
often prohibited due to strong surge, and therefore it is patrolled only when conditions
permit. In the 2009 nesting season, 11 activities were recorded on this beach of which 7
Green turtle tracks and 4 hawksbill tracks. No nests were seen or found on this beach for
-At over 1 km this is the longest beach on St Eustatius and is
directly linked to Turtle Beach at its Southern end. It is a
narrow beach backed by cliffs, except in the northern 200m
where there is a relatively sparse border of Sea Grape trees
(Coccoloba uvifera). In this region there are also the
remains of an abandoned hotel behind the beach and the
principal public access area. Ground vegetation is not
extensive, limited to small patches of Beach Morning Glory
(Ipomoea pes-caprae) and an unidentified succulent-type plant, which are both grazed by
cows that occasionally shelter under the sea grape trees. The beach is very dynamic with
considerable sand movement throughout the year. Despite this, the Northern end is the
most stable, permanent beach on the island. Erosion is extensive close to the access area,
especially following heavy rains. This problem is exacerbated by sand removal in that
region. Close to the Southern end of the beach is a large storm water ghaut which acts as
the landfill for the island's household waste. Zeelandia is the primary turtle nesting
beach hosting three species of turtle (green, leatherback and hawksbill), and the only
place on the island where leatherbacks have been recorded nesting. It is the only beach
monitored at night by the Sea Turtle Conservation Program except for the fact that Kay
Bay was monitored for two nights during the 2009 season. It was a good season for
Zeelandia beach in 2009 with over 50 recorded activities for the season.
The 2009 Sea Turtle Conservation Program began with the following activities:
To prepare the primary nesting beach for patrols, numbered stakes were positioned at
20m intervals along Zeelandia Beach. These stakes are used to mark the location of all
nests or false crawls recorded during day or night patrols. Each stake was placed as close
as possible to the vegetation or cliff behind the beach. Stakes remaining from the 2008
season were repainted and any missing stakes were replaced.
A beach cleanup was done in the middle of March to facilitate walking on the beach at
night and to remove as much debris as possible that could hamper any nesting attempts.
The designated turtle bag for nightly patrols and all other equipment for the program
were inventoried. Missing materials such as gloves, tape measures etc. were purchased.
Training of Volunteers
The materials used for teaching volunteers about the Sea Turtle Conservation Program
were reviewed before the first group from Working Abroad arrived in February 2009.
The two existing short presentations were updated in early 2009; the first was a basic
introduction to sea turtles, their biology and nesting behavior; the second focused on
beach monitoring protocols and the correct use of the data collection sheets. Every
volunteer received training before assisting with beach monitoring.
At the beginning of the 2009 nesting season, the following activities were performed:
New Program Coordinator
In February 2009 the existing Programme Coordinator Lee Munson, announced his
resignation from the position. His replacement for the 2009 season was Jessica Berkel,
the Office Assistant and trainee Marine Park Manager. Lee remained on St Eustatius to
provide adequate cross over training for the new Marine Park Manager Mr. Tadzio
Bervoets and Ms Jessica Berkel prior to his departure and during the initial months of the
2009 nesting season.
New Turtle Program intern
In mid-February, the position of turtle program intern was advertised internationally
through Corallist, Idealist and WorkingAbroad. After a selection process, in March the
new Turtle Program intern Mr. Micah Herriot arrived from Canada for a six month
internship with the program. Mr. Herriot had previously done two seasons with the
Barbados Turtle program and had experience with night patrols, nest relocations and
excavations. However due to issues such as a less than cooperative attitude,
unwillingness to follow directions, increasing tensions amongst the other volunteers and
interns etc., a warning letter was given to Mr. Herriot whereupon he abruptly quit.
A search went out on the Coral List server for an immediate replacement and Ms.
Elizabeth Sheets of the USA took up the position for the final 2 V2 months of the
program. After a brief training period, Ms. Sheets proved to be a great asset to the
program. Friendly, eager to help, positive and hardworking were just some of her
Protection of Zeelandia beach
In January of 2008 a life-sized replica of a Leatherback turtle was built by then Marine
Park Ranger Walter "Gadjet" Blair and National Park Ranger Nadio Spanner. The
concrete turtle was produced as part of the Zeelandia Beach Beautification project. The
turtle had a three part function; it provides a great optical representation of the
endangered Leatherback turtle while offering a protective barrier against sand miners
wishing to drive on to the beach using that particular access point. It also proves an
invaluable tool in training the Working Abroad volunteers and Interns in biometric
sampling and nesting protocol.
Sand mining continues to be a problem at Zeelandia
Beach. Although illegal, people continue to take
anywhere from a few buckets of sand to full truck loads.
An interim measure to control this was undertaken and
involved placing small sections of rebar capped with
plastic bottles across potential vehicle access areas to
the beach. Unfortunately this was not permanent and
those determined to mine the sand simply pulled them
out and drove onto the beach. On one occasion a sand
miner was spotted by the patrol and the police were called. Fortunately they arrived on
time to get the vehicle license plate and promised that they would follow up.
Also on several occasions during the 2009 nesting season, vehicles simply drove around
the concrete turtle as if it were not blocking the path down to the beach. The turtle intern
tried to solve this by erecting a wall of stones and small boulders on either side of the
turtle but to no avail. A more permanent low wall or some other difficult to shift
obstruction will have to be
erected on that spot. This will
have the added bonus of
preventing heavy water runoff
that is steadily eroding the area
around the concrete turtle
every time it rains.
Since the planned implementation of a protective boulder barrier was not realized at the
beginning of the 2009 nesting season and due to a lack of funding for this year's
program, the Program Coordinator and turtle intern had to improvise and be creative with
the erection of barriers preventing driving on the beach.
Several discarded oil drums were found next to the public dump and they were used to
block several vehicle access points in order to deter sand miners. They were buried up to
1/3 of their height and filled with boulders. Some barrels were also later placed on the
slope under the sign in the background on the photo. The slope is a very popular access
point for vehicles driving on to the beach as can be seen in the photo below.
The barrels worked
in that they
miners from driving
O Hr T on to the beach in
N TH HEACi that area but
persons could still
mine sand by
walking onto the
beach with buckets.
The barrels were
painted later on by
the Summer Club
kids; a dark color on
the sides facing the beach and a bright color on the sides facing any vehicle headed
toward the beach.
Protection of the beach also involved maintaining and cleaning the sea turtle information
signs. This was done with the help of volunteers from the BroadReach program who were
generous enough to donate the paint, brushes, varnish and manpower needed for
refurbishing the signs.
Bearing in mind several incidents involving dogs
during the 2009 nesting season, an important
preparation consideration for next season will be
the erection of at least three signs warning dog
owners to keep a close watch on their dogs while
they are on the beach. A sign can be placed at the
three most popular entrances to the beach so that
dog owners cannot fail to notice one. It is
doubtless impossible to prevent dogs from digging A nest partially excavated by a dog.
holes on the beach but at least a sign urging
persons to investigate exactly what their animals are digging up could prevent a nest from
being destroyed completely or hatchlings being hurt or predated upon. There were three
such occurrences during this nesting season.
Beach Cleanups 2009
As Zeelandia beach
is the primary
nesting beach, a
t beach cleanup is
performed at the
beginning of the
S. sea turtle nesting
season and usually
once a month
during the entire
Besides the beach
cleans on January
30th and February
16h in which in total two truckloads of garbage and debris and one large net were
removed from the beach, the actual preseason beach clean was performed on Friday,
March 20th, 2009. On that occasion a total of 25 extra large garbage bags were filled.
Following is a summary of beach clean ups for the 2009 sea turtle nesting season:
Date Beach area Results Comments
March 20 Zeelandia/Turtle Beach 25 bags
April 24 Zeelandia 10 bags
May 29 Zeelandia 20 bags incl. 9 members of public
June 17 Zeelandia/below dump 11 bags Junior Ranger I children
June 29 Zeelandia 04 bags
July 29 Zeelandia 04 bags Various large plastic debris
August 28 Zeelandia 06 bags 1 truckload
Sept 04 Zeelandia 10 bags Int. Coastal Cleanup
Sept 11 Zeelandia 05 bags
Oct 02 Zeelandia 08 bags
Nov 23 Zeelandia 10 bags 71 kgs and 1 dead goat
Many persons expressed an interest in joining the beach clean ups but were unable to do
as beach cleans are usually carried out on Friday mornings when the majority of the
public is at their place of work. As can be seen from the list above only one clean up for
the year was attended by members of the public. Two others were attended by children
from the BroadReach program that do specific community outreach programs on each
island that they visit.
Education, Community Outreach and Media Exposure
Club program took
place from July to
the local school
The Summer Club is
open to all children,
locals and visitors
c alike, between the
ages of 8 and 13. In
-~ 2009 a total of 25
children took part in
Figure 3: Summer Club children learning triangulation, the activities of
which the sea turtle
program section was a part. Twice a week for 6 weeks Summer Club participants took
part in turtle related activities in sessions lasting two hours. Some of these activities
included, track surveys, nest excavations, nest relocations, presentations with knowledge
reviews and sea turtle themed games.
Besides children, the Sea Turtle Program strives to involve the general public as much as
possible in its activities in order to generate interest and advocacy for sea turtles. On
several occasions hatchling releases were done in the early evenings and members of the
public were encouraged to attend. Hatchling releases are usually publicized using the
turtle call list which is comprised of a list of members of the public who have requested
to be called in such an event and also through staff members that spread the word to
interested friends and relatives who in turn pass on the information to their friends. The
very first hatchling release for the season saw some 50+ persons witnessing the event.
Additionally interested members of the public could join the nightly beach patrols after
signing a waiver form and receiving instructions from the patrol leader. On several
occasions during the season persons would come to the beach and sit at a certain vantage
point and look out for turtles. Since it is a public beach, they are allowed to do so, but the
patrol at every opportunity explained the need for quiet and the restrictions on using
white lights. The night patrol diary does not adequately reflect the amount of times
members of the public were on the beach as in most situations they were not actually a
part of the patrol.
Interested persons were called to the beach to witness a nesting female several times
during the season but again, exact figures of the amount are not recorded.
Finally, an encouraging percentage of nest excavations
were done with the assistance of a non-staff member. The
actual investigation of the eggs was done by the Turtle
Program Coordinator or trained staff and a watchful eye
was kept on the data that was being recorded by the
assisting volunteer. Members of the public who were not assisting with the actual
excavations did stay around to witness them and ask questions.
At those times Turtle Program staff take the opportunity to answer any questions and
provide additional information on sea turtles to keep the plight of the sea turtle and the
importance of their conservation in the forefront.
Publication of Sea Turtle program activities was less than it could have been with only 1
article being printed in the regional newspaper at the start of the season. The remaining
publicity was done by STENAPA media as can be seen below.
The Daily Herald Newspaper Articles 2009
Monday, March 23rd -Leatherback turtle arrives early for nesting season-
"STENAPA Update" Newsletter articles 2009
Newsletter 1/2009 March 2009 -Early Start for Turtle Season-
Newsletter 2/2009 June 2009 -2009 Sea Turtle nesting season update-
Juvenile Hawksbill saved by citizen-
Newsletter 3/2009 Sept. 2009 -New turtle program intern-
"Nature on Statia" STENAPA monthly radio program
March 2009 Interview with Micah Herriot, turtle program intern, to discuss the
details of the turtle program and his duties therein.
Beach Mapping and Erosion measurements
Due to the highly dynamic nature of Zeelandia beach, periodic beach mapping is carried
out to measure the shifting of the sand. Using the stakes which are placed for nest
triangulation and are situated 20 meters apart.
Measurements are taken using the method described below.
A team of two people measure the distance from the high tide line to each stake. Then
using a Theodolite mounted on a tripod the height of the stake against the high tide line
(sea level) is recorded at every fifth stake. This is best done with one researcher deciding
the high tide line (HTL) and the other person reading the Theodolite. The researcher on
the HTL (marked by highest ocean debris) stands with an extendable pole, marked in feet
and inches. While this is being done the Theodolite is placed above the stake (as close as
possible as in some places the stake was in the cliff or at an angle making placing the
centre of the Theodolite base directly above the top of the stake impossible to achieve)
and leveled using the adjustable legs on the tripod and the leveling devices on the
Theodolite. Once the built in spirit level was set with the bubble in the middle, the lens
cap was removed, focused and a reading at the central cross-hair taken.
The distance between the base of the Theodolite and the top of each stake is measured
using the plumb line. The distance between the top of each stake and the sand is also
measured. By taking these measurements, combining them and then subtracting from the
height measurement recorded from the Theodolite (which was converted into meters
from feet) we get the actual height of the beach above sea level (HTL). All data was
recorded and logged on a specific data sheet and entered into the computer averages
calculated and recorded.
Beach mapping took place in the months of March, July and October of 2009.
If a significant landslide or cliff fall was encountered during a patrol on any nesting
beach, the following data were recorded; the date, time (if known), amount of cliff
affected and a description of the damage, including a photograph whenever possible.
Areas of sand mining were also recorded and amounts of sand removed estimated.
Beach Mapping results 2009
4 -A- Mar-09
3 -4- Jul-09
The loss of the numbered stakes continued throughout
the entire season and was particularly a problem
during the high surges caused by passing storms.
Fortunately the currents at Zeelandia are such that
uprooted stakes can more often than not be retrieved
as they tend to get washed ashore later on. Due to
high sand movement some stakes, usually stake #1,
#33 to #38 and stakes #65, 66 and 67, are buried
beneath the sand for a period of months. This is more
clearly portrayed in the beach mapping data graph.
For a good percentage of the nesting season there are
very little suitable nesting areas on Zeelandia beach.
The beach from stake #25 to 51 is usually completely
eroded. Patrolling is very difficult as the waves reach
the cliff front and one ends up patrolling through the
surf to get to Turtle beach. As an example at the end
of the season on January 10th, 2010, 27 of the 70 stakes were not in place and of those 27,
8 were found amid the debris that had washed up on the beach over the past week.
Cliff Fall stake #55
Cliff fall stake #58
During the 2009 nesting season, there were fewer cliff falls than in 2008 in which 18
were recorded. The amount of rock and debris deposited on the beach however was fairly
Cliff Fall Amount
1m wide, small boulders
19m wide, boulders >1m
18mx3mx10cm +/- 2 tons
Because of the incidences of cliff falls both this season and in previous seasons, when the
beach is severely eroded and the patrol will be forced to walk up against the cliff, patrols
are usually ended in the area of stake #45 near the Smith's Ghaut public dumpsite. It is
not worth the danger to patrol further on and any tracks can be hopefully found in the
morning provided the tide did not wash them away. The cliff fall which occurred near
stake #58 is in the exact location where the rest stop is made when continuing on to
Turtle Beach is impossible. The hazardous consequences of walking or sitting too near
the cliff while on patrol are repeatedly stressed during training of volunteers and interns.
Monitoring and Research Activities
During the 2009 nesting season several different monitoring and research activities were
conducted as part of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program:
Morning Track Surveys
Daily morning track surveys were carried out from March 14th 2009 up to and including
December 6t 2009 on the primary nesting beach (Zeelandia Beach) and Turtle Beach.
Besides the index beach, only Oranje Bay could be monitored on a daily basis because of
its proximity to the National Parks Visitor Center. Surveys of the remaining two beaches,
Lynch and Crooks Castle/Kay Bay were performed on an irregular basis.
For each track observed the following information is recorded:
Observer Name of observer recording data.
Weather Brief description of weather conditions.
Moon phase Based on the previous night's moon; this information is recorded to
determine whether there is a relationship between moon phase and emergence.
Species If possible to determine from the track.
Track width Measured as the straight-line distance between the outer flipper
edge marks; taken to the nearest millimeter. For each track the width is measured
at three random locations and the average used in analyses.
GPS location Measured either at the centre of the nest or at the apex of a false
Locale name Name of the beach.
Triangulation measurements to two landmarks Straight-line distance to the two
nearest numbered stakes; taken to the nearest centimeter. Measured either from
the centre of the nest or at the apex of a false crawl track.
Distance to vegetation Straight-line distance to the vegetation behind the beach
or to the cliff if no vegetation; taken to the nearest centimeter. Measured either
from the centre of the nest or at the apex of a false crawl track.
Distance to high tide line Straight-line distance to the most recent high-tide line;
taken to the nearest centimeter. Measured either from the centre of the nest or at
the apex of a false crawl track.
Number of unsuccessful nest cavities If the turtle made more than one attempt at
nesting during the same emergence.
Result of nesting attempt Recorded as either lay, probable lay, false crawl
(when some nesting activity observed) or track only (no nesting activity at all). A
lay can only be determined if the eggs are found or in hindsight upon hatching.
All nests were monitored daily during morning track surveys; disturbed or destroyed
nests were noted. After recording a track it is erased to ensure that data is not collected
twice for the same track. Surveys were conducted as early as possible in the morning to
prevent tracks from being disturbed or washed away. For continuity, and to increase the
accuracy of data collection, surveys were conducted by the Program Coordinator, intern
or trained personnel.
TURTLE IDENTI FICATION, SIZE AND HEALTH
Taggel bere: YVES TNO T lg I..o c6nl; .,._1 ,.. ..1
'lipper 'agL);: Oir&k Activity,.: Ei'"fbd r';im W J.
Flipper Tug(IR):; I ils hh t LinIi i .
r n / -
L )] Injuries:
IN ABSENCE OF TURTLE
TrirL Wilih N(M)1
Please Cirrle One; Rekirnlted I Nu ru ra Trlaugulhr ian (M)
I.ongitude (W): Landmark I:
L.alitude N): Landmark 2:
Nrst l.kpth: JNsC Widih;
HighwaterM_): "Vegetation (M):
tlnslcwlsfhl Nest CavIltle:
ReHult ptne cireLp: Lay I Probabl Lay / Dry Run / 'rack Unl
N EST RELOCATION INFORMATION
Total Number of Egs: Normal: YlVoJkle:
Data sheet used for both morning track surveys and nightly beach patrols
Results Morning Track Surveys 2009 nesting season:
During the entire season a total of 554 morning track surveys were carried out.
Beach Times surveyed Activities recorded
Zeelandia Beach 262 17 Tracks, 21 Dry runs, 8 Nests, 3x
Hatchling tracks, 2 Unconfirmed nests.
Lynch Beach 07 No activity
Turtle Beach 179 See Zeelandia beach
Oranje Bay 273 2 tracks including 1 nesting attempt
Crooks/Kay Bay 09 10 Tracks, 3 Nests, 4 Unconfirmed
Tumble Down Dick Beach 03 No activity
Turtle beach is included for the results of Zeelandia beach since they are considered as
one beach in the database.
This nesting season almost mirrors the 2008 season in that the first track (and nest) was
observed on March 14th 2009, only a day later than the start of the previous season. The
last activity was observed on the 14th of November, which is exactly one month later than
the close of the previous season. The 2009 season also ended with a large Green leaving a
substantial body pit on Turtle Beach. After extensive digging, no eggs could be found.
The Leatherback nesting season ran from March 14th to July 2nd 2009. Green turtle
activities were recorded from July 6th to November 14th 2009 and the Hawksbills
appeared from July 2nd to November 2nd very much concurrent with the Greens.
Morning track surveys continued into December because some nests had still not
hatched. The last unconfirmed nest was due to hatch on December 30th so although the
regular morning patrols ceased on Dec 6th, the Program Coordinator went to the beach
sporadically to check on probable nests up to January 10th, 2010.
The breakdown of activities per sea turtle species is as follows:
Species Confirmed nest Unconf. Nest Crawls/Activities
Leatherback 16 01 02
Green turtle 09 03 29
Hawksbill 04 07 24
The data above translates into an overall improvement on the previous season which the
exception being the amount of Leatherback nests. For leatherbacks there were 20
confirmed nests in 2008, greens had 1 confirmed nest and there were 0 confirmed nests
for the Hawksbills in 2008.
False Crawl Distribution 2009
Nightly Beach Patrols
Nightly beach patrols were conducted on Zeelandia Beach and, when sea conditions
permitted, Turtle Beach. Due to the low nesting densities at other beaches, it is an
inefficient use of resources to carry out regular patrols at these other locations. Each
patrol consisted of a minimum of two people; including the Program Coordinator, sea
turtle intern or Marine Park intern. A stretch of beach approximately 1km in length was
monitored on Zeelandia Beach (up to 1.4km when Turtle Beach was included). Hourly
patrols were conducted between 9.00pm 3.30am.
The primary objective of the beach patrols was to encounter as many nesting turtles as
possible. Apply flipper and/or internal tags as appropriate, collect carapace
measurements, mark the location of the nest for inclusion in a nesting success survey and
relocate any nests laid in suspected erosion zones. The data collected when a turtle was
observed is identical to that collected on morning track surveys except for the following
additional data and considerations:
Observer Name of observer recording data.
Date Patrols span two dates but to avoid confusion the first date is used
throughout the entire patrol.
Time At the moment the turtle is first encountered
Weather Brief description of weather conditions.
3 -- Green
2 I II I
0 . .
* Moon phase This information is recorded to determine whether there is a
relationship between moon phase and nesting emergence.
* Species If the turtle is not observed the species is determined from the track,
* Tag information Any tags already present are recorded, new tags placed are
also recorded on the sheet.
* Activity At the moment the turtle is first encountered. Classed as emerging,
searching, body pitting, digging egg chamber, laying, covering, disguising, gone
(used if turtle has returned to the sea).
* Carapace Length Measured from the notch to the tip of the carapace.
* Carapace Width Measured at the widest point of the carapace.
* Parasites/Ectobiota The presence of any parasites on the turtle are recorded,
with a brief description of the parasite; its location is indicated on a diagram on
the data collection sheet.
* Injuries Any injury to the turtle is described and the location indicated on a
diagram on the data collection sheet.
* Notes Any additional pertinent information about the turtle or their behavior
* Track width This is only recorded if the turtle is not observed during the patrol.
Measured as the straight-line distance between the outer flipper edge marks;
taken to the nearest millimeter. For each track the width is measured at three
random locations and the average used in analyses.
* Nest depth measured as a straight-line distance from the peduncle or cloacae (if
turtle is present) to the bottom of the nest.
* GPS location Measured either at the centre of the nest or at the apex of a false
crawl track. When possible this is taken while the turtle is depositing eggs, when
the egg chamber is open and the exact location of the eggs are known.
* Locale name Name of the beach.
* Triangulation measurements to two landmarks Straight-line distance to the two
nearest numbered stakes; taken to the nearest centimeter. Measured either from
the centre of the nest or at the apex of a false crawl track. When possible these
measurements are made while the turtle is depositing eggs so that the exact
location of the eggs is known.
* Distance to vegetation Straight-line distance to the vegetation behind the beach
or to the cliff if no vegetation; taken to the nearest centimeter. Measured either
from the centre of the nest or at the apex of a false crawl track. When possible
this measurement is made while the turtle is depositing eggs so that the exact
location of the eggs is known.
* Number of unsuccessful nest cavities If the turtle made more than one attempt
at nesting during the same emergence.
* Result of nesting attempt Recorded as either lay (when the turtle was seen
laying), probable lay (if the nest site suggests that the turtle laid but no eggs were
seen), false crawl (when some disturbed sand observed) or track only (no nesting
activity at all, no disturbed sand).
*Relocation data If the nest is laid in an unsuitable location which is prone to
erosion or flooding the eggs are relocated to a more secure section of the beach.
The following data are recorded for this new nest site.
o New GPS location Taken at the centre of the new egg chamber.
o Triangulation measurements to two landmarks Straight-line distance to
the two numbered stakes closest to the new nest location; taken from the
centre of the new egg chamber.
o Distance to vegetation Taken from the centre of the new egg chamber.
o Distance to high tide line Taken from the centre of the new egg
o The number of eggs The total number of eggs; also recorded separately
are the number of yolked and yolkless eggs if applicable.
o Time eggs deposited The time the turtle began to lay eggs.
o Time eggs reburied The time the eggs were placed in the new egg
All data were collected either while the turtle was laying or immediately afterwards when
she was covering the nest site. No turtle was touched or approached before she had
started to deposit her eggs.
Once the turtle had returned to the sea, a line was drawn in the sand through both tracks
or they were erased to indicate to the person conducting the morning track survey that
data had been collected, preventing data repetition for the same track or nest.
Results of 2009 Nightly Beach Patrols:
Nightly monitoring of Zeelandia beach began on March 18th, ended on October 5t, and
was done on a fairly regular basis. Patrols were only cancelled due to impending bad
weather (storms/hurricanes), lightning strikes in the Zeelandia area and resorting to
targeted patrols because of lack of personnel. In all there were 156 patrols totaling 777.40
hours. This is a near doubling of the patrols of the previous year in which there were 74
patrols resulting in 500 hours of logged patrol time.
A breakdown of the patrols is as follows:
Personnel Patrol Count Hours
Program Coordinator (JB) 24 15.38%
Volunteers 125 80.13%
Interns 50 32.05%
Turtle Intern (Beth) 19 12.18%
Turtle Intern (Micah) 49 31.41%
Staff 8 5.13%
BroadReach 3 1.92%
Public 3 1.92%
Med Students 1 0.64%
Observed Turtles 25 16.03%
The timeframe within which nests were deposited varied with the earliest lay occurring at
21:00 hrs and the latest at 2:56am.
11 midn. midn. 1pm
The nests that were deposited after lam occurred closer to the 2pm mark more often than
not. The time that the remaining 7 nests were deposited is not known as they were found
after the fact or the next morning. It is using data such as this that determines the patrol
times. It is always stressed during training that the patrols are to start promptly at 9pm as
it has been shown that turtles can emerge as early as up to an hour before that.
During the 2009 nesting season, 3 Leatherbacks were encountered. There was almost
certainly a 4th Leatherback that deposited a nest on May 16th, but it was not seen by the
patrol, the nest was found the following morning. 2 Green turtles and possibly 3
Hawksbills were encountered. The Hawksbill count is not certain as there were no tags
and no attempt was made to tag the femaless.
Nest Distribution 2009
5 3 Hawksbill
S4 I Green
3 I Leatherback
.. ., ,, ,,,,,,,, , ,,,,, ,, ,,,
Metal flipper tags (National Band and Tag
Company, MONEL Style #49: WC251 -
WC350 and INCONEL Style #681: WE1 -
WE100) were donated by the Marine Turtle
Tagging Centre, Barbados, which is affiliated
with WIDECAST. All tag applicators are
inspected and cleaned on a routine basis and
replaced when they cease to function properly.
Standard tagging methods are used, based on protocols of the Turtle Monitoring Program
in St Croix, USVI. For leatherbacks, external flipper tags are applied to the centre of the
fleshy skin located between the back flipper and
the tail. For hard shell species, tags are applied Tagging site for fni)per ta
adjacent to the first large scale on the proximal
part of the front flipper where the swimming
stroke will cause minimal tag movement
(Balazs, G. H, 1999). Tags are applied while the
turtle is covering her nest, immediately after she
has finished laying eggs. This is done so that the
turtle is not disturbed prior to laying. Two metal
tags are attached to each turtle, both leatherbacks
and hard-shelled species to ensure that if one tag Figure 4: Tagging site Hard shells
is lost the individual can still be recognized.
External flipper tags were only applied by the Program Coordinator and the turtle intern.
The 2 Green turtles that nested in 2009 already had flipper tags. The Green (WE13 -
WC303new) was missing a flipper tag on the right flipper and a new one was placed by
the Program Coordinator. Because of the thickness of the flipper a MONEL tag was used.
They are normally used for Leatherbacks but an INCONEL tag was too small by far. The
Leatherback WC306/WC307 received two tags after laying her eggs in April. No attempt
was made to tag the Hawksbills that were encountered.
Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) Tags
rJD frw FrIT tp The program still has PIT tags which were
purchased with funding from KNAP Fund, MINA.
For leatherbacks only, in addition to the two
external flipper tags, one PIT tag is also applied.
A PIT tag is a small microprocessor which
transmits a unique identification number when read
Tagging sites for Leatherback
using a hand-held scanner. While the turtle is depositing eggs, a single PIT tag is inserted
under the skin in the right front shoulder muscle of the turtle using an applicator. All
leatherbacks encountered were scanned for the presence of PIT tags using an AVID
scanner before a PIT tag was inserted, to avoid double-tagging individuals. Only the
Program Coordinator and trained staff should apply PIT tags. None were applied during
the 2009 nesting season as 2 of the 3 female Leatherbacks that visited this season had
already been PIT tagged and additionally the PIT tag reader malfunctioned in early April
and had to be sent to the USA for repairs. The Leatherback (133764653A) was
previously recorded on Zeelandia beach in 2005 and the Leatherback (4B 12030C2D) was
a turtle that had been recorded nesting on the neighboring island of St. Kitts.
WC306/WC307 was tagged on Zeelandia beach on April 9th of this season but it could
not be determined if she was also carrying a PIT tag as the reader was malfunctioning at
the time. The Green turtle (WE11-WE7) was recorded on Zeelandia in 2005.
Standard carapace length and width measurements (as of Bolten, 1999) were taken of
each nesting turtle encountered, after she had finished
laying and at every encounter thereafter when possible. .
Measurements were made using a flexible tape measure;
each measurement was taken once, to the nearest
millimeter. I CI
Leatherbacks , Le
Curved carapace length (CCL) was measured from the (CCL)
nuchal notch (the anterior edge of the carapace where it
meets the skin) in a straight line to the most posterior tip of
the caudal projection When the caudal projection is not
symmetrical the measurement is made to the longest point
(any such irregularity would be noted on the data collection sheet as
influencing the measurement). Measurements were taken just to the right of
the central ridge, not along its crest, to avoid errors associated with carapace
Curved carapace width (CCW) is measured at the widest point, but there are
no standard features delineating the end points. The tape measure passes
over the ridges and does not follow their contours. ,C
Hard Shell species
SFor green and hawksbill turtles the
curved carapace length notch to tip
Carape (CCL n-t) was measured. It is measured
in a straight line from the anterior point at the mid-line (where the carapace and skin
meet) to the posterior tip of the supracaudal scutes. Because the supracaudals are often
asymmetrical CCL n-t is taken to the longest tip.
Curved carapace width (CCW) is measured in a straight line between the widest points of
the carapace, there are no anatomical features marking the end points.
Mean sizes of the nesting females that visited Zeelandia beach in 2009:
Turtle Identification Curved Carapace Curved Carapace
Number Length1 (CCL) / cm Width1 (CCW) / cm
DC 133764653A 154.00 113.00
DC 4B12030C2D 147.00 108.00
DC WC306/WC307 160.00 114.00
CM WE11/WE7 102.00 95.00
CM WE13/WC303(new) 112.00 106.00
EI- no tags 76.00 63.00
The measurements above are the average calculated for each female. Taking into
consideration the enormous variation in carapace measurements for any particular female
nesting in 2008 (up to 7cm), this year the program was determined to be more accurate in
The Leatherback 133764653A was measured all 10 times that she was on the beach and
the measurements only varied by .075cm for the CCL and .01cm for the CCW.
The Green turtle WE 11/WE7 was also measured each of the 5 times that she visited the
beach and the differences in measurements there was a maximum of .03cm for the CCL
and a maximum of .04cm for the CCW.
The Green Turtle WE11/WE7 had been measured at CCL 101.2cm and CCW 93.8cm
when she was recorded on Zeelandia beach in 2005. This shows a growth of .8cm in CCL
and 1.2cm in CCW taking into consideration that the measurements are an average taken
during the nesting seasons.
The Leatherback 133764653A was measured at CCL 151.2 and CCW 111.4 when she
too was recorded last in 2005. This shows a growth of 2.8cm in CCL and 1.6cm in CCW
taking into consideration that the measurements are an average taken during the nesting
1 If a turtle was encountered on more than one occasion the average of all measurements taken are shown
No comparison could be made with the measurements taken on St. Kitts of the nesting
female 4B 12030C2D.
Nest Survival and Hatching Success
All nests recorded were included in a study on nest survival and hatching success. Nests
were monitored during the daily morning track surveys. Close to the predicted hatching
dates (approx. 55 days) the triangulation data were used to mark the site of the egg
chamber; to prevent the surveyor having to re-measure the nest each day a small "V" of
sticks or some other clearly identified mark was placed on the sand behind the nest site.
This area was closely monitored for evidence of hatching; a depression, hatchling tracks
or hatchlings. After signs of hatching were observed the nest was excavated within 48
hours; if no signs of hatching were recorded the nest was excavated after at least 70 days
from the date the eggs were deposited. All excavations were conducted by the Program
Coordinator or trained personnel to ensure accuracy of data collection.
If a depression or other sign of hatching was present the excavator carefully dug down at
this point until the first egg was encountered; if hatching had not been observed the
triangulation data were used to locate the egg chamber. Using gloves, the nest contents
were carefully removed from the egg chamber and inventoried. The following data were
recorded for each excavated nest:
Nest code Each nest was given a unique identification number.
Observers Names of people present during excavation.
Date The date the nest was laid; when hatching was observed and the date the
excavation was conducted.
Number of empty shells Only shells corresponding to more than 50% of the
egg were counted; representing the number of hatched eggs.
Number of hatchlings Any hatchlings found in the egg chamber were recorded;
dead or alive.
Number of un-hatched eggs Eggs were opened to search for the presence of
embryos and categorized as:
o No embryo No obvious embryo present.
o Embryo Embryo present; includes all stages of development.
o Full embryo Embryo in final stages of development and ready to hatch.
Number of pipped eggs Eggs where hatchling had broken the egg shell but
failed to hatch; characterized by triangular hole in the shell. Whether hatchling
was alive or dead was also recorded.
Number of predated eggs If possible the type of predator was noted; often
characterized by a circular hole in the shell.
Number of deformed embryos Any deformities were recorded such as missing
flippers, additional scutes on carapace, albinism or the presence of multiple
embryos in a single egg
Number of yolkless eggs Small, yolkless eggs were counted separately.
Notes Any additional pertinent information was recorded.
Depth of nest To the top of the egg chamber (first egg encountered) and the
bottom of the egg chamber (after final egg removed); measure to nearest
Any hatchlings found alive were released to the sea. When the inventory was complete
the nest contents were returned to the egg chamber and reburied.
NEST EXCAVATION DATA SHEET
O smewrvurs ~_______
numlhr of Empty 3Mhlls (> } ____
Number oa AlLw
Number of Mo Embryo
SEgg Fidl Er or .
Alurmbw of Pipped Eggs
Numbn of DprOd.ed Egg s
Numbt" of Dforemd Embry z
Number of YTdlhls Eggs
Note Depth of Nmt
Figure 6: Data sheet used for recording nest excavation
Nest Survival and Hatchinz Success
Of the 16 confirmed leatherback nests, 16 were located for inclusion in the nest survival
and hatching success study.
Seen by Marines only
The Leatherback that deposited the nest on May 16th might possibly be the 4th female of
the season apart from 133764653A, 4B 12030C2D and WC306/307. A cluster of activity
from May 11th to May 20th shows a visit by a nesting female every 2 nights and only the
DC0912 nest being unconfirmed. DC0912 has only been included here to demonstrate
the high probability of more than 3 females being present during the season.
Leatherback 133764653A deposited a total of 9 nests. It is very possible that she also
deposited the first nest of the season on March 17th, but no researchers were present on
the beach at the time.
The following table provides a summary of the nest survival data obtained from each
excavated leatherback nest of 2009; each table details, nest code, turtle identification
number, fate of the nest and incubation period in days (if known).
All Leatherback nests were located on Zeelandia beach.
/ day2 Excavated
1 "n/a" indicates that the data of incubation was unknown either due to an unknown nesting date or the
clutch did not hatch for several reasons described in "Fate of Nest".
DC0904 WC306/307 hatched 60 8-Jun
DC0905 133764653A hatched 60 16-Jun
DC0906 133764653A unsuccessful n/a 5-Jul
DC0907 133764653A hatched n/a 14-Jul
DC0909R unsuccessful n/a 24-Jul
DC0910R unsuccessful n/a 27-Jul
DC0911 133764653A hatched n/a 1-Aug
DC0912 Unconfirmed Unconfirmed
DC0913 133764653A hatched n/a 7-Aug
DC0914 133764653A hatched n/a 2-Aug
DC0915 133764653A unsuccessful n/a 16-Aug
DC0916 4B12030C2D hatched 67 28-Aug
DC0917 4B12030C2D unsuccessful n/a 11-Sep
The survival of nests varied, but overall was not very high. Of the 16 located and
excavated leatherback nests 10 hatched or partially hatched while 6 were deemed
unsuccessful. The one remaining unconfirmed leatherback nest could not be located even
after extensive digging. It is suspected that the nest probably drowned due to its location
directly below the cement turtle where runoff causes a large pool of water. A predicted
incubation spreadsheet was made and taken to the beach for every patrol containing all
nest information and expected hatching dates. Each nest was marked for 60 and 70 days
and a close eye kept on the area between these dates. On the 70t day the nest was
excavated if no signs of hatching could be seen. For leatherbacks, average incubation
period was determined from 16 nests as 62 days.
The mean depth to the bottom of the egg chamber was 75 cm (16 nests) for the
leatherbacks with an average of 78 yolked eggs per nest (16 nests), the yolkless eggs
amounting to an average of 45 eggs. Mean number of eggs per nest was 123 with a range
eci Mean depth to Mean # eggs Mean % Mean %
bottom/cm /nest hatching emergence
Leatherback 75 123 15.62 41.96
Summary of leatherback excavation data from 2009
Hatching success was calculated as the number of hatchlings that made it out of the shell
into the egg chamber; emerging success was the number of hatchlings that made it out of
the nest. Leatherbacks showed a doubling of the mean success rate from 2008 (7.27%) to
a 15.62% hatching success in 2009. Emergence success did not change much as it rose
from 41.81% in 2008 to just 41.96% emergences in 2009.
During excavations it was found that leatherbacks had a large percentage of eggs with no
visible embryo present. The mean percentage of eggs with no embryo for the 16
excavated Leatherback clutches was 20.06%. The mean percentages of part and full
embryo were 24.2% and 14.81% respectively. A few nests contained pipped eggs; an
average of 0.13% for leatherback eggs and no eggs showed signs of predation. There was
one deformed hatchling with a severely misshapen carapace. The hatchling had difficulty
crawling on the sand, but swam quite easily once it made it to the ocean.
Two Leatherback nests, DC0909R and DC0910R were relocated, due to the likelihood of
them being washed away or excavated by sand miners if left in place. These nests were
placed between stakes 8-9 high up on the beach in an area thought to be safe. The
DC0909R (109 eggs) yielded no live hatchlings, 85 yolked eggs, and 24 yolkless eggs.
The DC0910R (98 eggs) clutch also yielded no live hatchlings, 65 yolked eggs, and 33
Looking at the data it appears that the first 5 nests, DC0901 to DC0905, laid in March
and April and hatching from mid-May in to June were the most successful nests.
Thereafter the hatching success took a serious decline as can be seen in the table below.
The one exception to this trend was DC0907. One explanation for this decline in hatching
success could be that the unusually warm months of summer that were experienced this
year caused heat stress in the nest and arrested the development of the embryos. The eggs
were clearly fertilized as can be seen from the number of embryos present.
No Embryo Embryo
For the 2010 nesting season a small experiment should be carried out whereby half of the
nest laid from mid-April could be shaded naturally, and half left un-shaded to compare
hatching success. Natural shading could be achieved through the use of palm fronds that
allow some sun and rain to penetrate to the sand instead of using something like wood
that would not allow for natural variation in sand temperatures. Shading could be also be
achieved artificially by using shade cloth such as seen in green houses. This might seem
like interference but the high percentages of partially cooked eggs found during
excavations leaves the program little choice but to intervene in some way to correct the
situation. There could of course be several consequences to the shading such as the
location of the nests will be obvious to anyone wishing to poach or destroy them. In that
case there could also be a solution sought to disguise the shading. Shading could be the
same color of the sand, only slightly raised or covered with a light dusting of sand.
A very low cost solution suggested to the Program Coordinator by Edith and Richard van
der Wal of Turtugaruba is a light covering of white sand which will naturally reflect the
heat of the sun. White sand is available for sale on the island and the program will utilize
this method in the next season to see if it will make a difference in hatching success.
GREEN TURTLE SUMMARY
Nest Survival and Hatchinz Success
All 9 confirmed green turtle nests are included in the nest survival and hatching success
study. 3 probable nests were unconfirmed and therefore not included.
Nest Code Date Time Result Comment
CM0901R 19-July-10 21:44 Lay
CM0902R 28-Jul-10 22:06 Lay
CM0903R 08-Aug-10 21:30 Lay
CM0904R 22-Aug-10 23:45 Lay
CM0908 26-Aug-10 21:20 Lay
CM0908A 14-Sep-10 22:30 Lay Nest found by chance
CM0909R 20-Sep-10 21:35 Lay
CM0910 25-Sep-10 21:45 Lay
CM0911 08-Oct-10 MP Lay MP = morning patrol
CM0908 and CM0908A almost share the same nest code because CM0908A was found a
month after it was deposited. It was found during a search for another nest and had
initially been recorded as a dry run attempt by the female. Since nests had been recorded
after it was deposited, it was decided that to avoid the confusion which would result from
giving it a higher number than nests deposited after it, it would instead get a letter after
the nest code.
The table below provides a summary of the nest survival data obtained from each
excavated green turtle nest of 2009; each table details, nest code, turtle identification
number, fate of the nest and incubation period in days (if known).
All the nests in question were located on Zeelandia beach.
The survival rate of nests for green turtles was encouraging. As can be seen in the
summary above only two nests were unsuccessful. The average incubation period was
determined from the 9 nests to be 60.3 days. The nest codes that end with an "R" were
those relocated and although some did hatch, in three instances only a few eggs out of the
entire nest had hatched.
CM0901R and CM0904R only had 2 shells in the nest when excavated, CM0909R had
only 4 shells in the nest and CM0911 had only 5.
Mean depth to
Mean # eggs
The table below provides a summary of the nest survival data obtained from each
excavated green turtle nest of 2009; each table details, nest code, turtle identification
number and a breakdown of the results of the inspection of the individual eggs.
All the nests in question were located on Zeelandia beach.
Nest Laid Excavated Alive Dead Shells No Full
Code Embryo Embryo Embryo
CM0901R 19-July 29 Sep 0 0 2 13 97 2
CM0902R 28-Jul 30 Sep 0 0 0 7 101 9
CM0903R 08-Aug 09 Oct 0 0 0 115 34 0
CM0904R 22-Aug 23 Oct 0 0 2 53 54 0
CM0908 26-Aug 18 Oct 3 1 80 14 27 1
CM0908A 14-Sep 12 Nov 0 16 116 2 9 12
CM0909R 20-Sep 17 Nov 0 0 4 28 73 0
CM0910 25-Sep 18 Nov 8 8 125 4 15 0
CM0911 08-Oct 12 Dec 1 0 5 83 15 0
One particular note of interest is the presence of two yolkless eggs in a nest deposited by
a green turtle and recorded as CM0904R. This nest was excavated on Oct 23rd by the
Turtle program coordinator assisted by the Marine Park manager. The two yolkless eggs
measured 2.8cm and 8cm. The appearance of the contents of the eggs was the same as
those seen in a yolkless leatherback egg, a crystal clear gelatinous substance.
The overall hatching success of the Green turtle nests is what actually fuelled the
discussion of whether or not a hatchery should be utilized. The success rates of the nests
left in situ are considerably higher than those that were relocated to the safe area.
The poor result of the relocated nest is not due to the actual move as one can see from the
embryo count. Development did take place but was arrested at various stages of the life
of the embryo. Again, heat stress death of the embryos is suspected as well as the
infection by bacteria. A fairly disturbing percentage of
the Green turtle eggs were infected by some type of
bacteria. The insides of the eggs were bright "neon"
pink mixed with red and green. The program lacked the
resources to test for the particular bacteria in question.
Also this data was only recorded in the latter part of the
season is therefore incomplete.
An effort will be made in the following season to
properly document this phenomenon.
Nest Survival and Hatching Success
Of the 4 confirmed Hawksbill nests only 2 were excavated. The hatching success of the 2
other confirmed nests are undetermined as only the evidence of hatchling tracks was seen
and no nest excavation could be performed as the egg chamber was never relocated even
after extensive digging. Those 2 are included in the summary below. An additional 7
nests were probable lays and the eggs were never found.
Nest Code Turtle ID Nest Fate Incubation Excavated
EI0901R No tags Unsuccessful n/a yes
EI0902 No tags Hatched +/- 66 no
EI0903 ????? Hatched n/a no
EI0910R No tags Unsuccessful n/a yes
The Hawksbill is only being briefly included here as the results for the season are less
than encouraging. Although there were numerous activities in particular on Crooks/Kay
Bay, no live hatchlings were seen by the researchers. The two nests that were excavated
did not yield any live hatchlings as the majority of the eggs were either partially or
completely cooked by the high temperature of the sand in the area where they were
relocated. The nests on Kay Bay were impossible to locate although hatchling tracks were
seen on two occasions.
EXPERIMENTAL RELOCATION SITE
Based on circumstances and experiences during the 2008 season, it was strongly
recommended that an experimental relocation site be employed in 2009.
Because of the dynamics of Zeelandia beach and to try and improve nest hatch success
rates, the suggested hatchery was put into place.
Beach profile monitoring has been carried out with a degree of regularity and from this
an appropriate site to relocate to was determined. The predicted best site from that
analysis lies in the area at the top of the beach between the information entrance and the
concrete turtle entrance, just below a stand of sea grape that stabilize the area at the back
of the beach. Thus in 2008, the area deemed to be safe was located between stakes 8 and
10 because that area was the least affected by runoff, storm surge and experienced only
minimal sand mining in the immediate area.
With or without storms, Zeelandia beach has historically shown itself to be very dynamic
with the majority of the length of the beach lacking areas suitable for nesting. Previous
years of nesting have encountered hatch success rates as low as 7.3%. The nesting season
runs from mid-March to October and the predominant threats to the survival of the nests
laid here is tidal inundation. As all species are threatened to some degree it is felt that
increasing the nest success has the potential to boost the nesting population in the future.
The recommendation last year based on 2008 experiences was that nests should be
relocated when they are laid too near the sea (within the high tide line), too close to the
cliff edge (falling rocks), or near artificial light. Also nests laid south of stake 15 should
be relocated to the experimental hatchery as that stretch of beach is susceptible to
flooding during hurricane season. As well as nests that have been laid near areas of
rainfall runoff or where pools can be created by large swells (i.e. the area in front of the
sand bar) should be relocated.
Nests laid in the wide sandy
areas between Stake 3 and 8
and between stakes 10 and 15
are susceptible to being
compacted by the illegal
activity of driving on the
r F 4U
A. ,' J
. W, _'4.
The Experimental Relocation Site Project has
encountered several problems that need to be
addressed for the 2010 nesting season. The most
immediate issue is temperature of the nests. Some
clutches that were relocated to the "safe area" were
Se excavated after 70 days and found to be partially
"boiled" by the intense heat of the sun on that area
of the beach. Late into the 2009 season, new nests
were buried at a deeper depth than they were
originally found. However, this unfortunately did
not alleviate the problem. Some alternatives to this issue could be to shade the hatchery
or, a more intense solution would be to switch to an incubation system.
The percentage of eggs that were partially cooked (boiled) or completely cooked(boiled)
was also only documented during the latter half of the nesting season. Although the data
is incomplete a few examples are noted below to show the extent of the problem.
Nest Code Total eggs Partially cooked/Cooked Percentage
CM0903R 149 65 43.6%
CM0904R 113 105 92.9%
CM0909R 106 56 52.8%
EI0910R 159 151 95.0%
CM0908 which was left in its original location close to the cliff had 12 partially cooked
eggs out of a total of 122 eggs which works out to around 1% of the total. This can be
explained by reason that the cliff shaded the nest during the afternoon hours. This
illustrates perhaps that the idea of partially shading the new nest location may help since
it did not totally eliminate the problem but did drastically reduce it.
A greater effort will be made in the 2010 nesting season to document incidents of cooked
and infected eggs.
From nest CM0903 and onwards, all relocated nests were dug deeper than the nesting
female had dug them originally and these nests still were not deep enough for the area
where they were placed.
Subsequent research showed that results from studies conducted in Guatemala,
Candelaria, Hawaii, and Las Lisas had similar issues with high sand temperature
destroying nests due to a hot and sunny climate, medium to dark sand colored beaches,
and low rainfall. The study concluded that high sand temperatures resulted in low
hatchling success in natural and artificial nests. Hatcheries with no shades had a 0%
success rate, where hatcheries that were shaded had an increased success rate (Higginson
and Vasquez 1989). Therefore, their solution was to build a shaded hatchery out of
fencing and palm tree roof. This could be an experimental solution for the 2010 season. If
no progress is seen, a change to an artificial incubation system could be the next step
towards a solution.
The predicted best site for the hatchery should also be revaluated for the 2010 season
because that area has now shown to be subject to flooding. The parking area and slope
below the cement turtle are subject to heavy rain run-off that can form a pool of water
near the hatchery.
The hatchery experienced a near miss during the passing of Tropical Storm Ana. An
inspection of the hatchery area after the storm had passed showed that the storm surge
had come to within 50cm of the relocated nests. Subsequent storms of the season did not
pass as near to the island as Ana did or create much of a storm surge and as such did not
threaten the hatchery. The island was not heavily affected by the 2009 hurricane season,
but caution should be taken in this area for larger storms and hurricanes.
A discussion was held as to whether or not the program should consider discontinuing
with the hatchery system of conservation in 2010 citing the high number of "cooked"
eggs and the hatching success rate of near 0%. One argument for the hatchery could be
that since the nest was in an area that would be inundated anyway, no harm can come
from moving the eggs to a safer area. However, the future hatchery if any should be much
better prepared than it was this year. In 2009, the program simply began to relocate nests
that were laid in erosion zones to the advised/recommended hatchery area.
The following steps should have been employed:
Prepare the sand in the area to be used: sift for roots, stones or anything that can
impede the development of the eggs and the escape of the hatchlings from the
Erect a simple wooden frame over which a "roof' of Coconut Palm fronds can be
placed. This allows natural sunlight and rainwater to filter through and they can
easily be adjusted during the hottest months.
Erect a sandbag wall to hold back any potential surge waters or minimize any
damage resulting thereof.
Higginson, Jane and Vasquez, Frabcisci. Hatchery Design and Production of Female
Hatchlings. Marine Turtle Newsletter 44: 7-12, 1989.
Two incidents during the 2009 nesting season gave an
argument for and against relocating nests that are laid in .,
"danger zones". In the first instance a Green nest laid near
stake #55 was relocated to the hatchery. As can be seen
from the image on the right, only weeks later a large cliff
fall completely obliterated the area where the nest was
originally. Had this nest not been moved then the 2 tons or
so of rubble would have made it impossible for hatchlings
to eventually emerge from the nest.
In another incident, a Green nest was deposited near stake #24. This nest was very near
the high water mark and in fact had been subjected to tidal surges on a number of
occasions. However after the summer results of nest excavations in the hatchery it was
decided by the Program Coordinator to leave the nest in situ. The result of that nest,
CM0910, even though it was constantly being subjected to seawater, was a hatching
success rate of 87%. As already discussed, had it been moved to the hatchery the success
rate would probably have been 0.00% as all the other nests that were relocated there.
It is results such as those of CM0910 that argue for as much as possible leaving the nests
where they are laid originally. And as you can in the recommendations for the 2010
season this is exactly what the Program intends to do.
Fortunately there was no stranding during this
nesting season. The only incident that the program
dealt with was the rescue of a
juvenile sea turtle. In a perfect
example of the positive results
of community outreach, the
program received a call from at .
private citizen who stated that
l Ae there was a turtle in her office -
and asked if we could come retrieve it. The Program Coordinator
and the Marine Park manager investigated the call and were very
surprised to see a juvenile hawksbill in a bucket. The story of how
the turtle came to be in that situation was rather vague but the
program was very happy to have received the call and retrieve the
turtle. After hydrating the turtle in some fresh water, it was released
into the water at Gallows Bay. It swam off with very powerful
strokes and seemed like it would be just fine.
Recommendations for the 2010 sea turtle nesting season
Provide adequate training for the turtle program interns and volunteers.
Service the truck that is dedicated to the program as it should be in ready
condition to use when on call.
Re-stake the beach as up to 27 stakes were missing at the end of the 2009 season.
Repaint any faded stake numbers. Check Kay Bay for re-staking.
Erect signs urging dog owners to be vigilant when letting their dogs loose on the
beach. Warn them to investigate when their dogs are digging in one particular
spot to avoid damage to turtle nests.
Place additional barrels to block vehicular access to the beach.
Publicize the start of the season through all available media with a reminder of the
fact that Zeelandia is a protected sea turtle habitat and all that implies.
Notify the police and public prosecutor of the start of the season and the
anticipation of their cooperation in the event of violations.
Revitalize the Summer Club activities as many children are repeat participants
and find themselves involved in the same activities every year.
Organize at least two evening presentation sessions on sea turtles and the Program
for the general public.
Dedicate at least two radio programs to sea turtles if there are no other pressing
topics to be discussed.
Update and actually utilize the list of persons wishing to view a nesting turtle or
join in the patrols.
Publicize any notable events occurring during the season in the regional
Highlight the turtle program on the local television stations along with current
Continue with the beach beautification project as planting trees can also help with
erosion and lessen runoff on the beach.
Step up morning patrols on Kay Bay beach to at least 3x a week during Green and
Hawksbill season. If personnel shortage an issue then at the least once a week. It
is not good practice to rely on a volunteer resident to do this as was shown in the
Continue to lobby the company NuStar Energy NV to reduce the bright lighting
on their tanks facing the beach.
Continue to work on a light pollution solution to the buildings along the cliff.
As much as possible try to leave nests in situ. Only in extreme situations should a
nest be relocated.
Utilize the white sand suggestion of keeping the nests a little cooler.
* Relocation should be done to a site that is at least partially shaded during the day.
* Every confirmed nest should be excavated and the eggs examined to determine
the true fate of the nest.
* Remains from excavated nests should no longer be reburied in the empty nest
cavity but thrown into the surf as in other programs. The available nesting space
on Zeelandia beach is not large enough to justify reburying which only
encourages bacteria growth. Also the late nesting of hard shell species does not
allow for complete decomposition of the remains before the start of the next
* Beach mapping should continue as in previous years to have a more long term
picture of sand movement on the index beach.
* Actively seek funding for materials and equipment in order for the Program to
continue to function successfully