What: SEATRU Volunteer Program
When: 2 – 10 Sept 2006 (Slot S)
Where: Chagar Hutang, Pulau Redang
Volunteer Handbook: http://www.kustem.edu.my/seatru/volunthbk/vhbk2.htm
Volunteers’ Responsibilities: http://www.kustem.edu.my/seatru/volunthbk/vhbk2.htm#RESPONSIBILITIES
Prof. Chan Eng Heng
SEATRU Research Assistant:
Mohammad Zaini Zainal
SEATRU Village Staff:
Slot S Volunteers:
Adibi, Julita Zam, Miow Chin, Lim Pei Ling, Tiun Siew Mond, James Lau Hing Wei, Eugene Ling Chia Kwong, Keith Ling Ang Kuong, Chong Bih Iou & I
Slot S Statistic:
Species: Green Turtle (Penyu Agar)
Turtle eggs/baby turtles’ threats/predators: Fire Ants, Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Monitor Lizard
Total Landing: 8 Turtles
Total Nesting: 4 Turtles
Maximum Total Landing as at 10 Sept 2006: 42 Turtles (Slot K)
Maximum Total Nesting as at 10 Sept 2006: 24 Turtles (Slot K)
Chances of Survive of a turtle: 1/1000
General Daily Itinerary:
7.30am – 9.00am Wake up and breakfast (bread/biscuit + Milo/Nescafe)
9.00am – 12.00pm: Patrolling/Nest Check* on shift basis OR Chor-Tai-Dee/Snorkeling
12.00pm: Lunch preparation
2.00pm – 5.00pm: Patrolling/Nest Check* on shift basis OR Chor-Tai-Dee
6.30pm: Dinner preparation/Volley ball
8.00pm – 9.30pm: Dinner
9.30pm: Nite patrolling** at beach (group)
12.00am – 6.00am – Patrolling at beach on shift basis OR Sleeping
* Day time patrol: Check the nest if there is any sign of attack by the predators and record into the log book.
** Nite time patrol: Observe if there is any female turtle landing for nesting. We record the time when we see a turtle landing, also record other information like the turtle’s tag ID, body size, etc after laying eggs. Everything is done in the dark with a small pen light. No torch light is allowed at the beach, and make sure the pen light does not face to the turtle’s eyes directly.
The Nesting Process
A female green turtle normally takes about 30 minutes to crawl from the sea to the beach. Sometimes they will just return to the sea without nesting when they feel uncomfortable, but they will return in the same day or next day.
After she choosing her favorite place for nesting, she start using her front flippers to dig the hole until the hole is deep enough to cover her body, then only starts using her back flippers to dig the nest’s hole. A nest hole can as deep as 80cm. She might use about another 15-30 minutes to get the nest hole ready.
Then she lays her eggs, sized like ping pong ball, soft and round. She can lay up to 100-200 eggs per nesting. After laying eggs, she is already very tired and exhausted, we can easily hear her loud and deep breath and she has to rest for may be 45 minutes to 1 hour before return to the sea.
Turtle Eggs, like ping pong balls
When the turtle finish laying eggs, we must make sure to put in a string as the nest mark, then identify her left and right tag IDs, measure her body size, etc. When our job done, we have to leave the mother turtle alone, she will be enjoying at least 1 hour’s sand bath.
So, total nesting process is around 2-3 hours.
Excavation is a process of digging the matured nests in order to check the eggs in the nest are they hatched successfully. This is the most meaningful daily activity for the entire program. There is always a surprise in the nest, sometimes we discovered the ‘paras atas’ baby turtles who on their journey crawling up towards the surface. Once we touched their little face during digging the hole, we have to recover the hole, and left the baby alone to crawl out step by step by its own effort.
First excavation demo by Zaini
If we discovered the nest was attacked by fire ants, our SWAT team would have to rescue the entire nest by relocating all eggs. Relocation means to dig another hole for the nest of the endangered nest. This task must be carried out with extra careful, the embryo in the eggs are very sensitive, so we extract them from the original hole slowly and place them one by one into the replacement hole as it is.
For the first time I felt the baby is moving its body in the egg shell when I hold it in my palm;
For the first time I witnessed the piping baby hatched from the shell;
For the first time I felt the life is so near and so real…
It was a wonderful moment in doing this task… :)
The relocated nests were placing near our accommodation
However, when there is life there is death. We would see the death baby turtle who just dead attacked by crabs or fire ants. After empty the whole nest, we took out all the hatched shell and unhatched eggs, then measured number of hatched/predated eggs. For those unhatched eggs, we have to open them, and check the cause of the unhatched eggs. Normally they were rotten eggs.
There was once, I removed a baby who attacked badly by many fire ants from the nest, then Miow Chin help it to remove all the fire ants from its body. The baby has been suffering by the fire ants bite and struggling in the nest. Lastly we place it at a safe place and suppose to release it at night. Unfortunately it cannot survive. At the same nest, there was an unhatched egg, Zaini said this egg must be rotten and there is no life turtle inside, so I have to open it to investigate the cause of unhatched egg. Surprisingly I saw an embryo inside, I was so shock and sad, I thought I killed a baby turtle, but Zaini said, no worry, it still can survive… we brought back the unhatched egg and place it safely inside a man made nest (sand in a basin) and wait for the embryo to become mature…
Day Time Activity
Basically we were so free during the day time. Beside nest check on shift basis, lunch and dinner preparation, we were totally FREE on the island. During the free time, we either went snorkeling or chor-tai-dee, but we must make sure to return from the sea before 3pm because the female turtles might be wandering near the beach to prepare for landing.
We have arranged activities by the SEATRU too, for example we went to Up River hike on Tuesday evening, around the island and Marine Park on Wednesday whole day, Turtle Rock hide on Thursday morning, beach clean on Friday.
Lunch and dinner preparation making our life on the island became more solid.
We are so called ‘volunteer’, but in fact our mission is not too obvious and significant. So it was more like a ‘Turtle Camp’ than a ‘Volunteer Program’.
Most of the time we spent on the island was like vacation than having a mission. So make sure you come with the correct expectation.
Our responsibilities are little so as the contributions, don’t feel like it was a great mission.
The best time to go: Jun/July/August.
The Most Valuable Experience: It was a journey to witness the life. We observed the life and death of the turtles, the suffering of a mother, the struggling of a baby, the desire of survive, the fragile of a life…
Nothing is happier than observing the baby turtles successfully crawling out of the surface of the sand from 80cm deep down, and then recognize and crawling excitingly towards the sea. No matter how many obstacles along the journey from the beach to the sea, the baby turtles will overcome every challenges until their first touch to the sea water. We, as the protector, have to ascot them as much as possible to prevent the attack by the crabs on the beach. Next, each of them have to face the great challenge in the open water with their own effort...
Life is not easy,
it is so strong yet so fragile,
appreciate every life you have met…