Hawai’i Hawksbill Sea Turtle Report

HAWAI‘I ISLAND HAWKSBILL TURTLE

RECOVERY PROJECT

2010 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Prepared by Will Seitz, Lauren Kurpita, and Liz Ransom February 2011

Aloha Honu‘ea Ohana! The 2010 hawksbill turtle nesting season is pau! For the last nine months, over 40 diehard turtle volunteers and interns tirelessly monitored and managed Hawai‘i Island’s southern coastline for hawksbill nesting activity and protected endangered turtle nests. This season was highly successful with 39 nests found and protected at six beaches: ‘Āpua Point and Halapē (in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park), and Kamehame, Koloa-Nīnole, Pōhue Bay, and ‘Āwili Point outside the park. Additionally, an olive ridley nest was saved from the surf and protected at ‘Āwili Point (pictured here).
Similarly to the 2009 season, the 2010 season was one of the longest on record. Honu‘ea field season is almost year round now, with this last season extending from April 2010 to mid-January 2011. We identified 12 individual nesting hawksbills and one olive ridley. There were likely more unidentified elusive nesters and nests. Of the 12 hawksbills, seven were returnees from previous seasons, while the other five were newly tagged. These five new recruits now bring the total number of tagged adult female hawksbills on Hawai‘i Island to 105. The olive ridley was only the fourth documented olive ridley nest in Hawai‘i state history. About 4,000 hatchlings safely reached the ocean from the 40 total nests including the olive ridley. Over 80,000 hatchlings have reached the ocean since the project began in 1989. There is hope for the honu‘ea! The following are site summaries:
Āpua Point: One newly tagged turtle laid four nests at this oasis. Families from Kalapana who were camping at the beach were able to observe this nesting turtle. As usual, these hatchlings here were helped across the cobblestones to the ocean. We estimate that over 200 hatchlings reached the water here thanks to volunteer assistance.
Halapē: The most popular backcountry campground in HAVO had two returning nesters that laid ten nests. One of the nesters, Barnacle Betty, was a returnee from 2004. The other turtle was tagged in 2007. Volunteers informed campers who were able to witness nesting turtles and hatchlings. This was especially needed since the nests were located in front of the campsites. Turtle personnel helped put out a wildfire that was accidentally started by campers. Personnel also worked with the Park Maintenance and Vegetation crew and the Wilderness Volunteers to control invasive koa haole that was encroaching on the nesting habitat. An estimated 547 hatchlings reached the ocean from this beach.
Kamehame: Four turtles and 10 nests were documented at this hawksbill nesting mecca. We suspect there were several additional nests as well. Kamehame had the most nesters and nests in the State. Two of the turtles were newly tagged and the other two were returnees. One of them was tagged way back in 1996 and had not been seen for 10 years. The other was seen two years ago, and during the interval was satellite tracked by NOAA residing off leeward Maui. From the 10 nests, we estimate that over 1,345 hatchlings reached the sea. Volunteers also assisted with habitat restoration by removing non-native plants.
Punalu‘u: Some community members reported seeing hatchlings near the pavilion at a small pocket beach. However, we were unable to locate a nest here.

Kōloa-Nīnole: One newly identified nesting turtle laid three nests at this site near Punalu‘u. Sadly, all three nests were unsuccessful due to exposure to high tides. In addition, another returning nester was seen here. We suspect that she nested undetected at another nearby beach, Kāwā.
Pōhue Bay: Nine nests from two returning hawksbills were protected and over 1,300 hatchlings reached the ocean at this important nesting site. One of the turtles was a returnee from 2005 and the other from 2007. Interestingly, both of these nesters were sighted by divers off of Maui in the years between nesting seasons. Including the turtle from Kamehame, there were at least three nesters this year that travelled from Maui to nest in Ka‘ū.
Āwili Point (Road to the Sea): One newly tagged hawksbill laid three confirmed nests and possibly two more. At least 248 hawksbill hatchlings reached the sea here from two highly successful nests. A third nest was unsuccessful due to heavy rains in the fall. The biggest surprise of the 2010 season was when an olive ridley turtle laid 88 eggs in the tidal inundation zone of the beach (pictured here) and were rescued by volunteers and translocated to higher ground. She was newly tagged. The nest was a huge success with 80 hatchlings safely reaching the ocean thanks to the efforts of the volunteers.
Keauhou, Punalu‘u, Horseshoe, Kahakahakea, Hāli‘ipalala, Humuhumu Point: No nesting was observed at these beaches. Beach checks were limited to daylight hours, so we could have missed signs of nesting activity since wind and tides may erase tracks made during the night.

SPECIAL MAHALO to Minky Markiewicz the last two decades of volunteering for Resources Management Division! THANK YOU! We wish you the best on your new journey. We will miss you!
Mahalo for your support! We want to acknowledge our supporters and partners: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawai‘i Natural History Association, National Marine Fisheries Service, World Turtle Trust, UH-Mānoa Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, Three Mountain Alliance, ‘Imi Pono No Ka ‘Aina, Ka‘ū High School, Hawai‘i County, Trust for Public Land, Yamanaka Enterprises, Nani Kahuku ‘Aina, Americorps and Kupu, Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, UH-Hilo, and the Big Island ‘ohana!!!

HUGE MAHALO to all the 2010 season interns and volunteers:

Randy Bacon
Ryan Belcher
Dave Bouck
Carrie Boyle
Wes Briones
Cole Burgess
Amy Comstock
Robbin Dilley
Reni Driskil
Natalie Folsom
Vanessa Foster
Nichole Gaskill
Joe Grandelski
Laura Griffin
Zu Gonzales
Malia Lehua Heimuli
Matthew Holl
Jenna Huskinson
Aleysia-Rae Kaha
Trevor Johannsen
Scarlett Kettwich
Selma Kettwich
Emily Leucht
Minky Markiewicz
Summer Maxwell
Stacie Miller
Monica Oey
Kelly Peebles
Brad Peterson
Liz Ransom
Michael Rawls
Kenny Riley
Jessica Robertson
Angie Salonikios
Hannah Shimabukuro Thelma Tomich
Katie Turner
Sasha Vallieres
Diane Ware
Sophie Wilhoit
Jamie Willeke
Colin Wirth

Creature Feature: Rachel Walker

Rachel Walker

Wildlife Educator and Animal Keeper

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Reptiles Alive Name: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel

Hisstory: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel grew up in Northern Virginia and in 2003 left to attend Clemson University in South Carolina.  While on summer break in 2005, Rockin’ Reptile Rachel took the position of Lead Animal Keeper at Reptiles Alive.  As one who enjoys challenges and is an extremely fast learner, Rockin’ Reptile Rachel began performing shows for Reptiles Alive during that very same summer. Enjoying the fast paced atmosphere, Rachel began working for Reptiles Alive full time in January of 2007 and has thrived ever since.

RA Diet: Rachel likes to feed on leftovers and peanut butter sandwiches. Yum!

Natural Diet: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel prefers a diet of fruits, veggies, and the occasional meat and dairy.  She eats as many locally supplied foods as possible and hopes one day to grow her own vegetables in her garden.

Range: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel has a very broad range.  She was born in Jackson, MS and then swiftly moved to Philippines with her pack until she was 2 years old.  Her pack then settled in Northern Virginia where she has resided ever since.  She temporarily expanded her range in 2003 back south while attending Clemson University in South Carolina.  These days you can find her all over the DC Metro Area doing animal shows or even traveling the world!

Habitat: You can find Rockin’ Reptile Rachel caring for the animal collection at Reptiles Alive HQ, out on the road heading to an animal show, or traveling the world by planes, trains, automobiles and her own two feet.  When she is not entertaining and educating the public with Reptiles Alive, her preferred habitat is to be in the wild or curled up on the couch with her fur-child, Frank-the-dog.

Size: Rachel has reached her maximum height at 5’9”.  Width may vary.

Lifespan: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel could live to 90 years or more!

Reproduction: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel adopted and is raising one fur-child named Frank-the-dog.  She may breed in the future but has yet to find a suitable mate.

Conservation: Since Rockin’ Reptile Rachel was a small child she has had a passion for animals and a great interest in public education.  She would speak to anyone who would listen about the most recent animal facts she had learned.  She has not gone too far from those days in working for Reptiles Alive. Rockin’ Reptile Rachel’s passion for animals and love of children allows her to present very exciting and educational shows that people of all ages are bound to enjoy. Her high energy and witty demeanor is sure to wow your audience!

Cool Facts: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel also has a passion for studying animals in the field. She traveled to remote regions of South Africa during a two-month summer expedition called Vets-In-The-Wild where she assisted wildlife veterinarians in exciting and often dangerous conservation attempts and medical procedures. Forgoing a “normal” college Spring Break, Rachel also traveled to the interior of the Amazon Rainforest with a study abroad program designed to study the Tropical Biology of the Peruvian Rainforest.  Her most recent travels have taken her to remote areas of Belize and Guatemala where she traveled for pleasure and to assist a wildlife trade school and zoo.

Where will her passion for animals lead her next?  Maybe to your school, camp, or even home!

Response to Proposed SENATE BILL NO. 477

The Commonwealth of Virginia will lose valuable resources currently offered to state and local animal and wildlife agencies, school systems, library systems, and the tourism industry, if SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed.

An entire professional community of law abiding, tax paying Virginia citizens will be penalized due to the act of a single mentally ill individual in Ohio if the proposed code in SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed.

As the founder and director of Reptiles Alive LLC, a successful outreach wildlife education organization, I currently provide jobs to four Virginia citizens and support my family with the income I earn in my professional endeavors.  I am not alone – there is an entire industry of tax paying, law-abiding Virginia citizens and their families who will be financially damaged if SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed.

SENATE BILL NO. 477 will exempt organizations accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The majority of wildlife organizations, including mine, are not AZA accredited.  The AZA is a private association, a “club”, which has developed its own accreditation requirements without any public input or oversight. The requirements to become an accredited member in the AZA are unreasonable for most private organizations and family run businesses. Most AZA facilities are operated using tax dollars collected from state and county citizens.

I have been licensed by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) as a Wildlife Exhibitor and Wildlife Rehabilitator since 1993. During this time, my staff and I have presented educational live animal shows to approximately 850,000 people.  We receive no funding from state or local government agencies to educate the public about wildlife and other environmental issues – including most of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL’s) in Science. We are a self-sufficient environmental education organization and provide a tremendous educational resource to Virginia students, schools, and citizens.

The passage of SENATE BILL NO. 477 will be a huge loss for Virginia environmental education.Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, hundreds of thousands of students and other citizens are exposed, by non-AZA wildlife professionals, to environmental concepts deemed important by the Virginia Department of Education.  There is no way the handful of AZA member organizations in Virginia will be able to make up for the loss of the permitted Wildlife Exhibitors currently teaching environmental education in Virginia.

I have also offered my services, at no charge, to the VDGIF and various local animal control agencies. These free services have included:  providing housing for exotic reptiles involved in court cases; identification of exotic reptiles; removal of exotic reptiles from hotel rooms, abandoned and condemned buildings; assistance with husbandry of exotic reptiles in state or county custody; advice to animal control and VDGIF officers dealing with boids, venomous snakes and crocodilians; and finally, providing permanent, safe housing for reptiles that had no where else to go.

If  SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed, it will not stop people from owning exotic animals, especially the snakes, listed in the proposal.  However, it will end the assistance the Commonwealth and local Virginia jurisdictions receive from many of the professionals who currently help with animal situations when needed.

AZA facilities will not make up for the loss of the non-AZA state licensed wildlife exhibitors and permitted animal rescue groups. AZA facilities rarely, if ever, take in “rescued” animals.  Private organizations including non-AZA zoos and wildlife exhibitors, licensed by the state, regularly assist in the placement of such animals.

At Reptiles Alive LLC, nearly all of the animals we have in our collection have to come us from local animal control agencies, game wardens, or citizens who no longer could provide care for their pet.  Outlawing the ownership of certain species (especially Boids) will not eliminate them from being privately kept in Virginia.  If these species are outlawed, the disposition options for unwanted or confiscated animals will be primarily limited to euthanasia.

I agree that the ownership of the species listed in SENATE BILL NO. 477 should be regulated – and the Commonwealth of Virginia already has such regulations successfully in place. As a state licensed Wildlife Exhibitor, each year I must submit to the VDGIF my: Permit to Exhibit Wild Animals application; list of species to be exhibited; annual wildlife exhibitor report; and a $50 fee.  An annual inspection of my facility along with the possibility of unannounced inspections from a state game warden is part of the conditions of my permit.  I carry a liability insurance policy and a Workers Compensation policy that covers the activities Reptiles Alive LLC engages in.

It will not cost the Commonwealth any additional taxpayer dollars to continue the permitting and wildlife enforcement process it already has in place.

The passing of SENATE BILL NO. 477 does not make sense for the Commonwealth of Virginia or its citizens.

Sincerely,

Caroline Seitz

Director/Owner

Reptiles Alive LLC

703 560-0257

[email protected]

Epic Desert Road Trip Part 6: The Grand Finale

We had been on the road for nearly a week and explored many amazing western canyons, deserts, and mountains.  However, it had been so cold that except for a tiny lizard that dashed under a rock and a roadkill gopher snake, I had not seen any reptiles or amphibians.

As my brother Will drove the Monte Carlo through the Painted Desert of Arizona, I was sitting in the back seat chatting with my Dad.    All of sudden, my Dad shouted “Will — turn the car around, we just passed a SNAKE crossing the road!”

Will was not sure if what he had just seen was a snake or a fan belt in the road.  But, since both my brother and my Dad love me (even if they don’t love snakes as much as I do), Will made a quick U-turn and, sure enough, Dad was right!

A beautiful 4 feet long Desert King Snake was stretched out across the two lane highway.  Luckily, there were no cars around, so I was able to move the harmless snake off the road and let it go safely on the other side.

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Our road trip from Reno NV to Surprise AZ via Colorado was nearing the end.

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Will said at some point during our trip that the word “Epic” is overused.  Maybe he is right, but I think no other word is better suited to describe the journey I was lucky enough to undertake.

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I’m looking forward to undertaking more epic journeys with Dad and Will again soon.