Nesting ecology and hatching success of the hawksbill turtle (2004–2014) on Cousine Island, Seychelles
Populations of the Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata in the Seychelles showed significant declines in the past. They have since recovered and nesting numbers are increasing because of increased protection and management intervention. Data on their nesting ecology on Cousine Island were collected and analysed for the breeding seasons from 2004/2005 to 2013/2014 with the aim of improving management
methods. The findings indicate that the number of nesting individuals increased during the study period (from x̅ = 34.3 nesters between 2004 and 2009, to x̅ = 55.4 nesters between 2010 and 2014); however, the clutch frequency was relatively low compared with other study areas. Night-time nesting increased, most likely because of increased disturbances across the study period. Clutch sizes decreased significantly across the nesting season, and there was a significant drop in hatching success in clutch sizes exceeding 200 eggs. The predation rate and infertility rate each showed an increasing trend over time. Nests incubating in full sun showed the highest mean hatching success rate and had the shortest mean incubation duration. The present study provides insight into the species’ nesting ecology on Cousine Island and will better inform management decisions aimed at increasing hatching success and minimising threats such as beach erosion and predation.
Keywords: clutch size, conservation management, Eretmochelys imbricata, field survey, incubation, infertility, nest translocation, predation