Turtle Conservation: Part Two | Adapting to the Pandemic

In the second instalment of Isabelle Eaton’s two-part series on sea turtle conservation, she explores how conservation work has changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

So, what is it like doing conservation work during a global pandemic? In August 2020 travel corridors were open and it was a time when it was safe to travel from the UK to some European countries providing you did not have any Covid symptoms. So I packed up my suitcase and travelled to Kefalonia, Greece for 6 weeks to volunteer for a turtle conservation charity called Wildlife Sense, who are working to protect the Loggerhead turtle population of Kefalonia!  

Image credit: Authors own

Travelling in a pandemic

Surprisingly the actual journey wasn’t as different as I thought it would be. The airport was a lot quieter and everyone had to wear masks throughout – I don’t think I took my mask off at all until I arrived. The only other difference was that before leaving I had to fill out a Passenger Locator Form so that the Greek embassy knew where to find me if anyone on the plane tested positive for COVID. A few people were selected randomly and tested on arrival in Kefalonia (not me!!).

What was different from previous years?

This was my second year volunteering for Wildlife Sense, so I was able to compare how things have changed due to Covid. One significant change was obviously wearing masks. Whenever we went out in the van to beaches or to the harbour for different shifts we always wore a mask as well as in situations where we knew that we would be in close contact with tourists. We were also given hand sanitiser to carry around with us and there were also big bottles all around the villa for whenever we returned from shifts.

Image credit: Authors own

What was the same and what work did we do?

Even though there were differences the main part of our work remained the same. We had the same shifts including morning survey when we surveyed the beaches, checked all the nests for signs of hatchlings or the nests being vandalised.

We also had harbour shifts where we monitored the sea turtle population that lives in the harbour. We educated tourists on the work we were doing as well as monitoring interactions between turtles and doing visual health checks on them to check there were no life-threatening injuries.

Image credit: Authors own

Tagging events were done nearer the end of the season and this year were not publicised in advance in order to minimise the number of tourists attending. Tagging involves bringing a turtle out of the water and tagging it if it is not already tagged. We would also measure the turtle to establish how old it might be. Tagging is an essential part of conservation work as it helps us to identify the turtles and treat any injuries as well as monitoring the general health of the population in Kefalonia. It also gives us a chance to check how any previous injuries that the turtle may have had are healing.

Some of the other shifts were beach cleaning, light pollution surveys, beach profiles where we would measure the height of the beach from the back to the shoreline this is important as we were able to monitor how the geography of the beaches is changing.

Image credit: Authors own

I would recommend that everyone does some sort of conservation work at some point in their life. It is such a rewarding experience to see how your work can make such a difference. Whether you do it in your own country or travel further afield, there will be something for absolutely everyone. 

About the author: Isabelle Eaton has recently completed her undergraduate degree and is now starting her Masters studying Sustainable Development at UWE. She has her own blog and is passionate about all things nature. She is also the Wildlife and Environment Editor here at Wild Magazine and is working towards a career in conservation so she can make a positive impact on the world.

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