Monday, 4 August 2014

Beach Profiling - Denis Island

During a beach profile monitoring exercise on Sunday February 2, 2014 -- where Gilberte Gendron, a research staff from the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) conducted staff training for those working for both Denis Island and the Green Islands Foundation (GIF), an NGO which focuses on environmental research on Denis Island - several Wedge Tail Shearwaters including chicks in a burrow of intertwined Casuarina roots on the coast were found.

The Shearwaters were unexpectedly discovered after the search for finding nesting green turtles by the staff produced no result.
Gilberte was invited by the GIF and it was her first trip to Denis Island and she was greeted on the island by Arjan De Groene, the general manager of GIF and Andre Labiche, the Denis Island environment officer.

Andre, very keen to attend this training, had already prepared all the necessary equipment including profiling poles, measuring tape, abney level and monitoring forms. A quick glance at the map and the existing survey points for profiling were located before the training started. The team had some difficulty locating the reference marks, but this did not hinder the training program which consisted of setting up temporary reference marks, with Gilberte giving detailed explanations of each step taken.

Andre starts his training.
Juvenile Wedge Tail Shearwater


Arjan recorded the data while Andre used the abney level to record the slope. A lot of emphasis was laid on the reading. Once this was completed, the team moved to the next point, and the roles were reversed, with Arjan using the abney level while Andre recorded the data.

Once everyone was happy that they could confidently conduct the beach profile monitoring, the training continued in the office. It was time to get familiar with the data entry program and a data entry session was undertaken where data collected in previous years were looked at.  Andre was then assigned the task of locating all the other reference marks, so as to complete the monitoring for the following months.

Since the training went quicker and more smoothly than was originally planned, Gilberte took the opportunity to brief the staff on the turtle monitoring protocol. It was decided that a turtle patrol should be conducted that same evening, with hopes of encountering a nesting green turtle. At 9pm the three left the office, along with Mala, a hotel staff and Eric, a dive instructor from the dive center, who had volunteered to join them.

After about a two-hour walk around the whole of Denis Island, they were back at the starting point, unfortunately without having encountered a single turtle. However, there was some excitement as another great discovery was made that night on the coast. Under a big Casuarina tree, a burrow had been sighted. Having a closer look through the intertwined Casuarina roots, several Wedge Tail Shearwaters, including chicks, were seen! The following day another burrow was spotted a little further down the coast, again with chicks.

It has been years since a Wedge Tail Shearwater chick had been sighted on the island and hope had been all but lost that the old breeding colony still existed. This discovery proves that Denis Island is again home to a small breeding colony of these magnificent seabirds. GIF and Denis Island will do their utmost to keep protecting the burrows and minimize disturbances in the hope of future expansion of the Shearwater breeding population.
Andre and Arjan continuing with the beach profiling

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