My close encounter with Mother Earth

I knew it! I just knew it…that she would be there last night. And she was! The first time I got there It was still too early, the night was dark, and all the starts were hiding behind the clouds. So I left, played some music on the guitar and then went back to meet her. And there she was! A BEAUTY!  It was late in the night, this time the moon was out and the sky was shining with stars, lighting her way along the beach.

She was digging a hole in the sand, after a second attempt. So I just sat down behind her and watched the lading edge of her hind flipper pressing to the ground, curling to scoop out the sand, then lifting and swinging laterally to deposit the sand in front of the back margin of her shell. As the sand was dropping and the flipper was setting down the other hind flipper was repeating the process. 

Then she adopted the” laying position” with her head in sand and both rear flippers placed on either side of the hole, and started laying. She was now in a kind of “trance”, so I could touch her and feel how smooth her shell was. As the eggs were dropping, her hind flippers curled and the head and neck were retracted. I tagged her, took her measurements and then just waited for her…delighted by her presence.

After her last egg was laid, she immediately started to fill the egg chamber with sand, again working alternatively with her hind flippers. Once the nest was covered, she started to camouflage the nest by throwing sand backwards over the nest site with her front flippers. As she moved forward, the sand formed a beautiful heart shaped pit around her. The entire process took almost three hours and at this stage she was exhausted! So then, guided by the moonlight, she oriented herself back towards the big blue ocean.  

I was completely overwhelmed, overjoyed…and I still am…with my first Green Turtle encounter. Possibly the rarest animal to see on Fregate Island.

Sea turtles, the peaceful creatures of the ocean, have a myriad of symbolic meanings in many cultures around the world. They are a symbol of motherhood, creation, endurance, strength, stability, self preservation, longevity, wisdom, fertility and innocence. They are the connection between the Sea and the Earth, as water brings life to the land and nourishes all life. Their shell arches like the sky, while their body is flat like the Earth, suggesting in some cultures that this creature was a resident of both the heavens and the Earth. They are also associated with the lunar cycle, leading to meanings of motion, intuition and emotion, the power of female energies.  

Then I tell myself…life could not be more beautiful, nature could not be more perfect, we need to believe. A special moment, a magical surprise…this is what makes me alive!

Thank you universe! 

 

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A visit to Sainte Anne Island

A few weeks ago I had the chance to go on a business trip to Sainte Anne Island for networking with scientists and conservationists working on Seychelles. Sainte Anne is a 220 hectare private island surrounded by one of the largest Marine Parks in the Indian Ocean and only 10 min away from Mahé. The island has a resort with 87 villas and a spa which is quite busy throughout the year.

The island itself is beautiful but not as wild and exclusive as Frégate. Indigenous birds and crawling creatures like millipeds and lizards are not seen that often. However, the island is a nesting ground for Hawksbill turtles and home for critically endangered terrapins. Absolutely gorgeous views everywhere…check it out! 

Inspired by the Moon

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator”
 (Mahatma Gandhi)

It follows the Earth on our yearly trips around the sun. THE MOON! Last night there was this BEAUTIFUL ring around the Moon, even looked a bit like a rainbow circling it. The silhouette of the coconut trees dancing with the wind was a full blast of inspiration. So of course I went to get my tripod and my camera…what a mission…one of the most tricky things to photograph. But i think I managed to get the felling of it.

The ring is an atmospheric effect caused by the refraction of Moonlight from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. Incoming light rays from the moon are bent at an angle of 22 degrees by ice crystals that happen to be in just the right position to be refracting light towards your eyes.  The shape of the ice crystals results in a focusing of the light into a ring.


Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Geochelone gigantea)

Fregate Island is home to the second largest population of Aldabra giant tortoises, with approximately 2000 individuals.  These herbivores are one of the largest species of tortoises on the planet and can weight up to 250 Kg. They are often found on the most unexpected places on the island and in shady areas during the heat of the day. These adorable beings  are also one of the world’s longest living animals which can live more than 200 years! Apparently can be due to their slow breeding.

In Fregate Island, we have a nursery for the baby tortoises, in which all juvenile found around the island are brought into our tortoise enclosure for protection against physical damage and poaching.This provides an opportunity for us to monitor the juveniles closely and gives us an indication of breeding rates and breeding sites. There is also the Juvenile Tortoise Program in which the guests can take God-parenthood over a little tortoise and contribute to the continuation of their conservation.

Frégate from a distance

Time flies on this island…it has been a month since I got here! Always busy…every day a new experience, a new surprise from nature…something different to learn.

Last week I had a chance to go fishing on the boat with the guys from the marina. It was the first time I step away from the island since I got here. It felt weird at first to see the island from another perspective…then after a moment, I felt really blessed…and realized again how lucky I am to be on this place.

The sea was a bit rough but I still enjoyed! The rocking of the boat made me extremely sleepy, but luckily there was a lot of fish to keep me quite busy (and fit). I caught with the guys more than 15 bonitos and about 3 rainbow runners.

The Seychelles Magpie Robin

This is the Seychelles Magpie Robin (Copsychus sechellarum), a mascot on Frégate Island. They are really cool birds and it’s very special to be around them. I believe this is one of the most important species to conserve around here, as it is one of the rarest birds in the world.

Magpie Robins are quite clever and very curious birds, usually come to greet you when you step into their territory or when you whistle calling them. They are monogamous species and highly territorial, which can live over 15 years.  It usually lays a single egg in a well-built nest located in a tree hole or coconut crown and readily adapts to nest-boxes.

The Seychelles Magpie Robin was originally recorded on at least seven islands in the Seychelles, but between the 1950s and 1990s, the whole world population was restricted to only 23 birds on Frégate Island. The species was listed as critically endangered in the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Animals, and came very close to extinction.

In 1990, The Seychelles Magpie Robin Recovery Team (SMART) was implemented to save this bird from extinction. Research on the species was implemented along with conservation management. The main measures taken were:

  • Restoration of natural habitat (clearance of scrub and planting of native trees)
  • Provision of nest-boxes
  • Control of introduced alien predators
  • Colour ringing and monitoring of the birds
  • Translocation to other islands
  • Establishment of new populations

After a series of conservation efforts, this species has been saved from the danger of extinction. Currently, the Seychelles Magpie Robin is surviving on the four islands of Frégate, Cousin, Cousine and Aride. The Frégate population is at great vigor with approximately 110 birds and is still the most important demonstrating the value of larger islands to the security of this species.

On Frégate, it is with great pleasure, my responsibility to ensure the safety of this species. Since I arrived on the island, I have being busy with ringing, biometrics data collection, nest box management and monitoring population dynamics of the Magpie Robin. During this month, one chick was born, three eggs were found in the nest boxes and approximately five new nests are being built inside the boxes. The Ecology manager and myself also managed to ring three Magpie Robins (one juvenile, one adult and one chick)!

The Seychelles Magpie Robin is an exceptional species and its story is one of the world’s greatest conservation successes!

Living the dream!

It has been just over two weeks since I arrived on Frégate Island, an isolated granitic island less than 3 km2, which is part of the République des Seychelles. Mother Nature was really inspired when created this place. The Island is really beautiful and probably one of the last remaining places on Earth that truly deserves the name ‘paradise’.

Deeply submerged into NATURE. That is how I describe the felling to be on Frégate. There are so many sea birds nesting everywhere, giant tortoises cruising the most unlikely places and fascinating crawling creatures such as giant millipedes, caecilians, geckos, spiders and snakes. Immeasurable tonalities of colors, flourishing tropical seas and a peaceful sound of the rain…truly inspiring! Can you now understand what I meant by “submerged into NATURE”? Actually this was just a hint of what Mother Nature gave to this place. Frégate is much more. It is indescribable… you can feel it through your eyes, in your skin… with your heart.

Frégate is a privately owned island that integrates luxury tourism with the conservation of its natural environment. Lying only 4 degrees South bellow the Equator, the island is home to some of the world’s rarest fauna & flora. I came to Frégate to work on the Ecology team as a full time Conservation Officer, responsible for all the environmental research and monitoring of species on the island. This is a great honor – my humble thanks to Mother Nature again – and, at the same time, this is such a tremendous responsibility.

Everyday it has being a new excitement! People are really friendly and I love the diversity of cultures amongst the 150 residents of the island. Besides the Seychellois, there are Kenyans, South Africans, Indians, Indonesians, Sri Lankans…and myself – the only Brazilian, also representing the entire American continent.

Part of these 150 people are responsible for the well being of Mother Nature; and the others for those exotic guests that are in need of privacy and a different kind of excitement. The resort’s slogan is ANYTHING, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. Well… do I have to say how spoiled guest can be at Frégate?

There is a lot of work to do on the island. For instance, I do:

  • Weekly bird counts – which means to walk through certain habitat types identifying and counting all birds seen
  • Intensive monitoring of the endangered Seychelles Magpie Robin (ringing- meaning to attach combinations of small rings as a way to identify them as individuals; nest boxes check ups- in order to identify breeding success and failure; territory mapping- aiming at mapping the distribution of those awesome birds)
  • Population assessments – estimating numbers of birds, reptiles, insects, etc and fluctuations
  • Monthly newsletter – which I hope to share with you very soon!
  • Nature walks with the guests – only a few guests want to be spoiled this way
  • Additional research projects

Turtle nesting season is coming up very soon, which will keep me very busy with special volunteers =) monitoring all the beaches on Frégate, to make sure that all that cute little turtles will be born safe and sound!! Very exciting!!!

I have being exploring the island quite a lot. What I have seen is fulfilling my life with peace and joy. As I way of sharing my thoughts and adventures, I’m planning to post every week some exciting biodiversity facts as well as activities that I do on the island.

With loads of pictures!