Updated: Jul 28, 2022
The last month saw AMC celebrating 'World Ocean's Month'. As a result we had a lot of community based, ocean related events including a dive clean up for World Reef Day. Luckily to assist in these events we have had full capacity of volunteers, who we are forever grateful for. Our volunteers for the first time since running the program have had the opportunity to learn to Scuba Dive through upcoming, local dive centre, Naifaru Divers. The most exciting event this month was the release of long term, Olive Ridley, rehabilitation turtle Xena. Xena was released straight from the sea cage in-front of the marine centre. Our staff were busy this month presenting at various events to raise awareness including an event in Male about "The Role of Women in Environmental Conservation" organised by Bridging the Communities Maldives. We unfortunately said farwell to one of our bright marine biologists, Jess who is moving on to work back in Australia and welcomed Nicky, our new volunteer coordinator to the team!
Images: captured by volunteer, Ricky: insta - @rickyquintanpr
This month was incredibly special for both staff and volunteers at Atoll Marine Centre, as one of the Olive Ridley turtles in our care, Xena was released. Xena was initially admitted for rehabilitation in 2019 from being entangled in a ghost net which caused the amputation of her front left flipper. In 2020, Xena was transferred to the veterinary hospital run by the Olive Ridley Project, due to lethargy, inappetence and weight loss. Due to being entangled in the ghost net, Xena also suffered from chronic buoyancy syndrome and found it very difficult to dive. During her time at ORP, the team realised that Xena was attempting to dive on rehabilitation sea swims. As a result Xena was transferred to AMC on the 26/04/2022 for rehabilitation in the centre's sea cage. For a sea turtle with buoyancy issues to be safely relocated to the sea cage, the swell conditions must be relatively stable. If conditions are too rough then the turtle may become stressed with the incoming waves on the surface. Fortunately the last month provided very suitable weather conditions and as a result Xena was able to spend a month in the sea cage. She was monitored daily for improvements and to the staff and volunteers excitement, she was recently found sitting at the bottom of the net, at a depth of 5 metres - therefore overcoming her buoyancy syndrome!
Xena was monitored over the next few days and was observed to repeatedly and easily dive the entire depth of the sea cage and surface for feeding. The decision was then made for her release after spending over two years in rehabilitation. We were also very grateful to have the executive team from Kanifushi Maldives who visited the centre on the day to join us for this special event. Xena was released directly from the edge of the sea cage in-front of the marine centre to minimise any stress during transportation. Initially we waited for her to acclimatise to her new surroundings and then she headed directly for the open ocean. We would like to thank eveyone involved in Xena's rehabilitation process, espeically the team at the Olive Ridley Project. It is fantastic to have multiple organisations working towards a common goal for turtle rehabilitation here in The Maldives.
World Reef Day
On the 1st of June, AMC staff and volunteers joined local dive school Naifaru Divers for a dive against debris dive clean up. Participants worked together by scuba diving and snorkelling to remove rubbish from the Naifaru house reef over the course of two dives. It was astonishing to see how much rubbish was buried in the sand surrounding the reef or attached to the coral. Although we realise one days work of removing the rubbish will not solve this large issue, we hope that the clean up raised awareness and passion in the local community to prevent more trash from negatively impacting the marine environment.
Sea Turtle Science in the Maldives webinar - World Sea Turtle Day
This World Sea Turtle Day, AMC marine biologist Kayla joined the Olive Ridley Project, The Environmental Protection Authority Maldives and the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology Maldives for the annual Sea Turtle Science in The the Maldives webinar! Kayla presented AMC's plans for the upcoming Floating Marine Centre and how the current sea cage increases the efficiency of turtle rehabilitation. The event was also a great opportunity to learn about the key milestones in sea turtle science from other organisations such as Marine Savers and The Maldives Underwater Initiative
The Role of Women in Environmental Conservation
Locally run women's empowerment NGO: Bridging the Communities Maldives organised an event in Male this month about the role of women in environmental conservation, at the Manhattan Business Hotel. AMC vet, Natassia and marine biologist, Kayla, were lucky enough to attend and be invited to guest speak to a crowd of 70 eager participants. Kayla spoke about the work that Atoll Marine Centre does in rehabilitating turtles, protected marine species, environmental issues and threats in The Maldives. Kayla also discussed the role that women can have in environmental conservation and how local women can start a career path related to marine biology or environmental science. Natassia spoke about the threats that land animals and native birds face in the Maldives. She also highlighted the increasing stray cat population and solutions that everyone can work on together to solve the issue. Many listeners were also eager for Natassia to answer their veterinary care questions about their own pet cats. Both Natassia and Kayla felt extremely privileged to have been asked to speak at this event, representing Atoll Marine Centre. Atoll Marine Centre would like to acknowledge all of the hard work that Bridging the Communities Maldives does for women's empowerment in The Maldives. We would also like to acknowledge the time, effort and care that BCM put into organising this wonderful event. BCM expressed their passion for both topics when two excecutive members visited the centre and without their vision, passion and organisation, this event would not have been possible!
Naifaru school holiday program
This month began the first few days of school holidays here on Naifaru. In response, AMC launched a marine based school holiday program to spark an interest in marine conservation with the local children. The program included activities such as beach clean ups, educational movie nights and craft sessions using rubbish from the beach. For our first session we had children register to visit the marine centre. During the activity, volunteers and marine biologist Kayla, gave a short presentation on sea turtle biology and threats in The Maldives. There was a great response and we had over 30 children in attendance, ranging from the age groups of 5 years old to 12 years old. Children also had the opportunity to meet the sea turtles in our care and learn about why they are in the centre. Initially, we had a significant amount of hatchlings which were being kept as perts and were surrendered to AMC in response to educational awareness when the centre was established. We always put an emphasis on this point when speaking with the children. Since the global pandemic, this has been the first organised education session we have had with local children. We hope that in the coming weeks our information will have a positive impact on them, and the next generation of Maldivians can work together to solve the issues that face the oceans here.
Certified scuba divers at AMC
In cohesion with their duties at the centre, Atoll Volunteers have had the opportunity to gain their PADI Open Water and PADI Advanced Open Water scuba diving certification this month. Volunteers have been achieving certification through local diving school Naifaru Divers and logging dives around the house reefs, as well as well as boat dives in the Lhaviyani Atoll. These dives also give volunteers a great opportunity to learn more about the local marine environment in the Maldives and allows a closer inspection to what they would usually see whilst snorkelling. As volunteers become certified, we can then take part in scuba surveys on the local reef and teach volunteers about coral gardening.