Hawksbill Turtle Conservation
We’re a big fan of the Hawksbill Turtle on Treasure Island, not only are they beautiful majestic creatures, synonymous with Fijian culture and history, but they are a vital part of our coral reefs ecosystems. We are lucky that they live and breed here on the island! For over forty years Treasure Island Resort has been an advocate for the protection of Hawksbill Turtles, we were one of the first resorts in the Mamanuca Island group to employ a full-time Environmental Officer and dedicated Environment Team to run our Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme, among other projects. Through this programme we have released hundreds of turtles back into the wild each year; luckily this is something that has caught on with other local resorts now running similar programmes.
Hawksbill Turtle nesting season in Fiji can run from October to June each year, one of the longer nesting seasons for marine turtles. Throughout this nesting season we patrol regularly looking for new nests. Once a nest has been identified we place a small fence around and monitor it, when the eggs hatch we place the hatchlings in one of our turtle ponds where we care for them until they are less vulnerable. We then release the turtles back into the wild in small batches between 6 months and 24 months old.
This conservation approach is known as a Hatchling Headstart Programme, and we are one of the very few resorts in Fiji that have the necessary permits from the Department of Fisheries to keep turtles for conservation purposes. We ensure the turtles have ample opportunity to develop natural behaviors so they are adequately prepared for release. We adopt recognized best practice procedures for this type of programme, and in our release methodology, and consult with experts around the world to ensure the best care for our baby turtles whilst they are with us on Treasure. We submit our data to national and regional databases to contribute to development of more effective conservation strategies.
Where possible, turtles will be tagged and the unique identification number recorded before they are released. We then take the turtles to the release location where they are released on the beach close to the water’s edge and allowed to crawl to the sea. This process is called ‘imprinting’ and is considered critical to development of navigational cues which enable them to return to their beach of birth when they begin to nest later in life.
One success story is a turtle named Adi Mamanuca who hatched on Treasure Island, she was released with a satellite tag in 2008 and her journey was tracked for 270 days when her signal was lost. She recently returned to our sister island Bounty where we were able to record the sighting and start tracking her again.
We have turtle feeding displays every day and weekly talks by our resident Environment Team. Kid’s Club have great fun helping to find exciting additions to keep our turtle pools looking great and the turtles’ diet nice and varied. We participate in local, national and regional initiatives to increase understanding of this species and assist efforts to protect them. We work with partners and specialists in Fiji, the Pacific, and globally to continually improve our turtle conservation programme and encourage wider uptake of best practice methodologies. We actively seek and maintain relationships with universities, aquariums, zoos, scientists and other institutions to ensure the best possible care for all our wildlife.