Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Turtle Week: Day Four

Cleaning up the Reef!
The morning after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party was a slightly quiet one on Mabul island. Staff were working hard on setting up the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which we hope to open very soon. The centre will provide an area for us to care for injured and sick turtles. Come lunch time, and with everyone extremely hungry after a mornings diving, Scuba Junkie once again provided delicious pizza. With all the money going straight to Turtle conservation, it's even harder to resist! 

In the evening we had an old friend come by for a presentation. Christian Loader gave a talk on taking photographs of these beautiful animals, and the various situations in which he has seen them. Christian works for Scubazoo, a videography and photograpahy company based in Kota Kinabalu. They regularly film footage for the BBC, recently they worked with David Attenborough in Danum Valley. They have also released several books documenting marine life around the world. For those interested in photography he explained the various setting he used to achieve his beautiful pictures, whilst the rest of us gained some insight into the complexities of achieving such incredible photos. Sadly it was not all about how to make something more aesthetically pleasing; we also got to see the darker side of Christian's work. He showed us photos of turtles that were sick from pollution - where benign tumours begin to grow all over their body, leaving them unable to feed or swim properly. He then show images from areas in Papua New Guinea, where the rare Leatherback turtle is found for just a few months a year. Graphic images showed locals hunting the turtle by harpooning it through it's shell. They cut the flippers of the turtle so it is unable to move, and beat it until it dies. As Christian explained, it was traumatic to witness and to shoot. However, footage of these events in vital in educating people around the world about what is happening. According to Christian, the one saving grace of the experience was that the villagers used every part of the dead turtle - in part for food, and by burning the shell they produced useful oils. 
After the presentation it was time to announced the winner of out daily competition - 'Guess the amount of Turtles seen today'. Once again Roisin won! The second time this week, must be the luck of the Irish! She guessed closest to our count of 104 turtles seen about Mabul, Semporna and Sipadan. Our guests Roisin and Nikki have contributed a lot these last few days; they been entering the competitions, adopting turtles and helping out with beach and reef cleans. Thank you so much guys! 
Congratulations again Roisin!

Facts about Leatherback Turtles: 

  • They are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN list
  • Its shell is flexible and covered in a thin layer of leathery skin.
  • The leatherback turtle is the world's largest turtle; the largest recorded individual weighed a massive 916 kilograms
  • With the widest distribution of all the marine turtles, the leatherback turtle is found throughout the world's oceans. It has been recorded as far north as Alaska and as far south as the tip of South Africa
  • The leatherback turtle can dive to great depths. Leatherback turtles equipped with depth recorders dove to over 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) deep. 

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