Society for Protection of Turtles
Focus: Conservation and Marine biology.
SPOT was founded in the late 1980s by British expatriates Ian and Celia Bell who came together with Kutlay Keço, or Jimmy as he is fondly known to the regulars at the Grapevine restaurant in Kyrenia. In 1988 a preliminary field study was carried out by Brian Groombridge and Claire Whitmore and SPOT later made further surveys of the North Cyprus coast and found numbers of nesting green and loggerhead turtles sufficient to merit further investigation. In the early 1990s SPOT contacted Glasgow University and in 1992 the first pioneering team of students were sent to make a thorough survey. On the basis of this expedition, Kutlay agreed to provide accommodation on his land at Alagadi, and this became the Alagadi Goat Shed and Sleeping House, which twenty years on are still used by the Marine Turtle Conservation Project (MTCP) as the hub of research and conservation of turtles in North Cyprus.
Marine Turtle Conservation Project
The MTCP is a joint initiative of SPOT and the Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG), University of Exeter, UK. Each year since 1992, a team of enthusiastic students from the UK, Cyprus and overseas have worked with us monitoring, conserving and researching the marine turtles of North Cyprus. Most would agree that the project has left a life-long impression on their futures. Our work is carried out at the request and in conjunction with members of the local Department of Environmental Protection. Since the early 1990’s, research conducted by the MTCP has made a great contribution to the global understanding of marine turtle biology, threats and conservation.
If you are interested and think you have what it takes to volunteer at the North Cyprus Marine Turtle Conservation Project, follow the link (here) where you can download an application form and access more information.
Costs & Benefits
Volunteers are responsible for the monitoring nesting females and their nests. This work is usually carried out at night with groups of volunteers walking the beach from 20:30 to around 06:00. There are also a number of volunteers devoted to day-time work. The majority of the volunteers are based at the main Alagdi site with some spending longer periods of time at a small house in Akdeniz village on the West coast.
Volunteers patrol the main study beaches at Alagadi throughout each night, every 10 minutes, through June to August. Upon encountering a female, she is observed by a group of volunteers to record whether she is nesting, attempting to nest or retreating to the sea. The turtle's carapace length and width are measured along with the pattern and amount of scutes on the shell and she is checked for and fitted with identification tags. The nesting behaviour is observed and the amount of body pits and egg chambers attempted are also recorded. She may also be fitted with a satellite transmitter or datalogger.
When nesting is confirmed the volunteers will place a device to measure temperature into the nest then they will place a flat mesh cage on top to help protect against predation by dogs and foxes which habitually dig down to nests when they encounter them. Lastly a dome cage is placed on the top of the nest to draw attention to its location, a warning for visitors using the beach. From mid-July to end of September these nests are checked on every night at regular intervals to ensure they have not been predated and to gather hatchlings which are measured and weighed prior to release.
Excavation provides data that allows us to gauge the success of the nest and often to unearth some hatchlings that may not have survived otherwise. Excavations are undertaken during early morning or late afternoon and certain nests are excavated publicly and involve the team educating tourists and locals. At these events we also raise funds through donations to finance the continuation of the project.
A release is an educational public event where a number of members of the public can release hatchling turtles under the supervision of the volunteers, on the beach, shortly after dark. These are very popular events and are excellent at raising the profile of turtle conservation, particularly with children, who may be allowed to name, hold and release a hatchling, which is an unforgettable experience.
From Alagadi and the West Coast base groups of up to four volunteers patrol set beaches every morning, starting at sunrise. Depending on how much activity is encountered a typical days can be as short as 4 hours or much longer, perhaps returning to base close to night-fall. Much ground is covered during this work and volunteers are rotated each week so that most volunteers get to experience all aspects of turtle conservation. During day work nests are located and screened to reduce predation rates and later are excavated to analyse success and to release any remaining hatchlings.
Volunteers are asked to contribute £650. This covers all costs for a 6-8 week stay; food, accommodation and transport in Cyprus. In addition, this money helps to finance the involvement of local students. This does NOT include travel to Cyprus or travel insurance, which must be arranged by each individual. Copies of insurance documents must be provided before arrival. You are welcome to attempt to raise your personal contribution from fund-raising events or sponsorship. It is also worth contacting your University to explore the possibility of Erasmus funding. Turkish Cypriot citizens will not be asked to contribute financially for their placement, but are welcome to make a contribution.
There is no upper age restriction. Volunteers travelling from overseas must be 18 or over. Volunteers from North Cyprus must be at least 16 years old but will require parents/guardians to complete a written consent form.
CO:Tunay Beton, 5 Barbaros Sokak
Gonyelli, Kibris, Mersin 10
Tel: +905338725350 (Jun 1st-Sept 30th)
Location: Alagadi beach North Cyprus
Average cost per day: £12 based on 8 weeks
Focus: Conservation and marine biology
Skills needed: Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and English speaking or 16 years for Turkish Cypriots