Selamat petang, my name is Rutger (English name Roger). My role on the Perhentian Turtle Project is Coordinator on the nesting beach Tiga Ruang. I take the volunteers with me during the night doing patrol along the beach to look out for turtles that want to lay eggs. During the night we teach them everything about nesting turtles and if we have baby hatchlings than we release them during the night on the beach.
August was an interesting month a lot of amazing stuff happened, from having nice groups of students visiting the project to dealing with big storms on Tiga Ruang. The beach that we do patrol on is changed a lot in the months I have been there, the waves are taking away a lot of sand and because of that there is a big wall created of sand at the far end of the beach. Some nights it was that high that turtles could not come up there anymore, that spot on Tiga Ruang was in the month of July is the most favourite place for the turtles to nest. It is interesting to see how the beach can change in sometimes only a few nights especially when we get big storms during the night. I can see that we are approaching the end of the nesting season, because the amount of turtles is very unpredictable and goes up and down. Some nights we have no turtles on the beach the whole night and sometimes we have nights that we have five nesting turtles.
The amount of hatchlings we release every night is still large and this is because we relocate the eggs from the original nest to the hatchery as it takes around 60 days to hatch. During June and July where we were very busy with nesting turtles almost every night we had at least 5 nesting’s. So all the eggs from these days hatch in this period and we found out that the average days the eggs need to hatch in our hatchery is 54 days.
On Tiga Ruang we only have the green turtle nesting, but on a really small and idyllic beach next to Tiga Ruang does the hawksbill turtle nest sometimes. These eggs we also relocate to our hatchery. A few weeks ago we had the first hawksbill hatchlings of this season, and these small creatures are amazing. In the same night we had also green turtle hatchlings so we were able to compare them and the hawksbill hatchling is a lot smaller than the green turtles one. It was really awesome to see them and the volunteers that where with us that night loved it as well.
In the last month we also had some nice groups of students visiting the Community and the Turtle project. The first group was a group of student from the Durham University Charity Committee (DUCK). They also joined us on two night patrols, the first night we went to Tiga Ruang Menangis with six of the students. Menangis is a small beach just before Tiga Ruang and is also part of the protected beaches. It is a really small beach but turtles do nest still nest there sometimes. We camped there during the night with the six students and two other Fuze-Ecoteer members. It was a really cool experience, especially for the students as they were able to experience how we do our patrols. The second night three of the students stayed on Tiga Ruang itself which is where we are based for doing night patrol. The second big group we had in August was a group of Japanese students for an organization called SOLO. This consisted of nine students who were able to do one night patrol together on Tiga Ruang; they also thoroughly enjoyed their experience.
Last week we started our night patrol as usual and when we were not expecting a lot turtles because the previous night’s it had been very quiet. But one of the nights we ended up having five nesting turtles which is a lot at this stage in the season. The best part of this day was that one of them crawled out of the water onto the beach at 7:15am which is very unusual as turtles generally nest between 8pm and 6am. Around 7am the sun is already rising so we were able to see this morning turtle nest in broad day light. She laid 70 eggs, after that she started camouflaging her nest for just over one hour and at 9:15 she went back into the sea. It was amazing to see a turtle that early in the morning on the beach. Turtles are really slow on land, but as soon ass this one entered the water again she gained speed instantly. Within a few seconds she was out of our eyesight. It was rare and beautiful ocassion to see this turtle crawling back in the clear blue water and swimming that fast in the sunlight of the morning.
The end of August is a important day in Malaysia as it marks independence day on 31st. Every year one of the resorts on the big island (Perhentian Island Resorts) does a beach cleanup with their staff. This year they did it on the beach in front of there large resort. After cleaning their beach the whole team came over to Tiga Ruang to do a beach cleanup with us. We decided to spilt into two smaller groups and Connaugh, one of our interns, lead them on Tiga Ruang itself. I went with the other group to a small beach which we can reach by doing a short walk through the jungle. Between the two groups we managed to collect around 20 big black bags of rubbish. It is really good initiative of the resort to do something good like this on a national day.
At the end of August we were given a paddle board by one of ours bosses for an extra activity on Tiga Ruang for the volunteers and interns to use. That means we can paddle around to the other beaches and enjoy the sea.
In the last week of August we also reached our 200th nest of the season on Tiga Ruang, that is amazing number to reach. We got more nests over the season in the hatchery but they come from other beaches around the Perhentian Islands. So the total number of nests must even be a lot higher. I am really happy with this number as it shows are hard work is paying off. When looking at it lets say every turtle laid an average of 100 eggs, that means that we had roughly 20,000 eggs in the hatchery this season. If we would follow the statsitcs that 1 out of 1000 hatchlings that survives, that means we saved 20 turtles this season that will grow up to a mature turtle.