Saturday, 5 September 2015

Conservation: Denis Private Island

Memoirs from our conservation volunteers


6:00am wake up; 6:30am breakfast; 7:00am work; 11:45am lunch; 2:00pm back to work; 4:30pm finish work; 6:15pm dinner; 9:30pm bed; Repeat.


This is the everyday routine for the two Canadian conservation volunteers, Jodi Crawford and Chelsea Lefler, who have been working for GIF on Denis Island for ten weeks now. Although their routine may seem mundane, the hours between fuelling up on food and falling into bed are anything but. 



On an average day, Jodi and Chelsea might witness the first minutes of a baby sea turtle’s life, help out an endangered bird species, or microchip-mark and measure a giant tortoise - all before lunch!


‘Yes, working on Denis Island is quite the experience,’ say the girls ‘and it’s challenging too!’ For instance, most of the island relies on it’s own resources in order to function, but the environment team often requires out of the ordinary items that are not so easy to obtain.  As a result, a fair deal of creative energy is required in order to solve problems. To illustrate this, imagine needing 24 fake eggs that can be left outside, unprotected, for months on end. This was a problem the environment team had to tackle in order to complete the fake Sooty Tern colony at the Southwest end of the island. In this situation, there are no nearby craft stores with materials readily available for creating fake eggs, so the question is how can you make these with what you have?

 




What they ended up doing was collecting real duck and turkey eggs, then blowing out their yolks, filling them with cement, and painting them white with black specks so that they resembled Sooty Tern’s eggs. All in all, it took a total of 3 days to gather the appropriate materials and complete the eggs, an errand that might only have taken a few hours anywhere else.


While tasks like this one keep their minds active, other aspects of conservation work on Denis keep their bodies active. These are duties like turtle track count, where several times a week Chelsea or Jodi (or another member of the conservation team) walk the circumference of the island (about 5 km) in order to record the number of tracks made by sea turtles that came to shore the night before. The whole excursion takes approximately an hour and a half. On the way they also pick up the beach waste that unfortunately washes ashore during the windy and wavy Southeast season.   



Perhaps the best thing about living and working on Denis is the appreciation one learns to have for all the little things, for example of all of the island’s rare and endemic creatures. ‘Yesterday, we caught two Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher’s while mist netting for Seychelles Warblers with the two students from the Groningen University that are doing the survey,’ says Jodi, ‘to many people who don’t know much about this little bird, this isn’t that special; but there are actually only about 200 of them in the world and as I held one in each hand I realized I was holding almost 1% of an entire species. There’s just something so staggering about that. Suddenly, their importance hits you and you can’t help but think about how lucky you are to be here.’







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