Friends of Maziwe - Turtle Conservation

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1 Friends of Maziwe In 2005 the Dorobo Fund Directors, recreational stakeholders along the Ushongo Beach, the Tanzanian Government and the local community have joined together in a unique venture to protect the Maziwe Island Marine Reserve. Marine Conservation on Maziwe Island and the surrounding reefs is vital for a long-term sustainability of Pangani s economy and environment. The broad goals of Friends of Maziwe are to monitor and evaluate the health and bio diversity of the Maziwe coral reefs in order to preserve and protect our coastal ecosystem. In 2008 the settings for the turtle conservation project were laid. Today Friends of Maziwe and the Ushongo village community are running the project together and four turtle conservation officers from Ushongo village are working in the project. The team is trained to relocate turtle nests from the inundated beaches on Maziwe Island Marine Reserve and Kikogwe Beach to two dedicated areas in Ushongo Beach.

2 Green Turtles on Maziwe Island Sea turtles are reptiles and their closest relatives are snakes, lizards, crocodiles and alligators. The body temperature of the turtle is the same as the water it is swimming in. Adult Green Turtles forage among sea grass beds and near shore habitats. Their peak, with finely serrated edges, like the teeth of a saw, enables them to tear sea grasses and scrape algae off of hard surfaces.

3 Sea turtles nest on sandy beaches Sea Turtles spend their entire lives at sea. The life cycle of a sea turtle starts when a female lays its eggs on a nesting beach, generally in the area where she was born. Green Turtles will nest multiple times during a nesting season at intervals of 2-4 years over the course of their lifetime. Maziwe Island was one of the most important nesting ground in Tanzania before it lost all trees through cutting and erosion. Green turtles still return to the Island and nest but during the spring tides the eggs are submerged and rot.

4 Reptile eggs are unique Female turtles will wait for the cover of darkness before leaving the water to crawl up the beach to find a suitable nesting spot. Once a spot has been chosen, the female carefully and methodically digs a nest with her rear flippers in which she will lay as many as 100 or more ping-pong ball sized eggs. Most reptiles lay amniotic eggs. The egg shell protects the embryo and the internal membranes help embryos develop.

5 Sea turtles are hard workers Digging the nest takes the Green turtle over an hour and another 10 to 20 minutes are spent laying the eggs. For the conservation officer it takes 10 minutes to dig the new nest and another 20 to relocate the eggs carefully in the nest. The only survival chance for the turtle nests on Maziwe Island and Kikogwe Beach is the relocation of the eggs to the mainland beach.

6 Life Begins After 45 to 70 days, the hatchlings begin to pip, or break out of their eggs, using a small temporary tooth located on their snout called the caruncle. Once out of their eggs, they will remain in the nest for a number of days. During this time they will absorb their yolk, which is attached by an umbilical to their abdomen.

7 Green turtles navigation The hatchlings begin their climb out of the nest in a coordinated effort. Once near the surface, they will often remain there until the temperature of the sand cools, usually indicating night time, when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or overheat. Once the baby turtles emerge from the nest, they use cues to find the water including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, and the natural light of the ocean horizon.

8 Dangerous struggle Everything from footprints to driftwood are obstacles for the turtle hatchling. Birds, crabs and fish are just a few of the predators these vulnerable creatures face. Some scientists estimate only 1 out of every 1000 hatchlings will produce a fully mature adult under natural conditions and live its full 60 to 80 year lifespan.

9 The lost years From the time the baby turtles take their first swim until they return to coastal waters to forage as juveniles may be as long as a decade. This period of time is often referred to as the "lost years" since following sea turtles movements during this phase is difficult and their whereabouts are often unknown.

10 Juvenile Sea Turtles After their open water phase, sea turtles now approximately the size of dinner plates, will return to coastal areas where they will forage and continue to grow until they reach sexual maturity (adulthood). This varies among sea turtle species but ranges between approximately 7 and 50 years. Greens mature between 20 and 50 years.

11 Adult Sea Turtles Once sea turtles mature, both males and females will leave coastal waters and migrate to breeding areas where they will mate and begin the adult, reproductive stage of their lives. Females will mate with multiple males, storing sperm to fertilize multiple clutches of eggs that will be laid over the course of a couple of months. When the nesting season comes to an end, females will return to foraging grounds, not nesting again for 2 to 4 years.

12 Please contact us if you would like to support us or for more information!

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