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Falling for sharks – Saratha’s internship experience

By Saratha Naiken, 3rd December 2021


Firstly, for a quick introduction, my name is Saratha Naiken and I am a 20 year old citizen of the Republic of Seychelles. As a young ardent ocean admirer, I have always had a keen passion and interest in our marine life from a very young age. Growing up, I set myself the goals to dedicate my career and life to marine conservation and wildlife and ever since my interest in the environment grew day by day, I became actively involved in numerous NGOs in Seychelles, which inspired me to pursue my goals even further.

D’Arros Island and St Joseph atoll are amongst the many islands of the Seychelles that contain some of the most diverse ecological habitats. As a BSc Environmental Science student, currently in third year, I have had the privilege to jump-on-board for a three-week internship with the ‘Save Our Seas Foundation – D’Arros Research Centre (SOSF-DRC)’ in a collaboration with the University of Seychelles in August and September 2021.

Each and every day spent on the island was an eye-opening opportunity. To be in close contact with turtles, tortoises, sharks, manta rays etc. is something I have always dreamt about, and my journey with the team turned that dream into a reality. Waking up every day is always an adventure on the island; you never know what you will come across and D’Arros is full of surprises!

Saratha learning from Research Director Robert Bullock about measuring stingrays.

The SOSF-DRC has been tasked with preserving and showcasing the ecological integrity of D’Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll and their surrounding marine environment through research, monitoring, restoration and education. During my three weeks of stay, I gained  insight into many of their long-term monitoring projects such as the ‘Turtle tracks in the sand‘, ‘Manta residents and Manta visitors’ and ‘Watching the kids: nursery use in juvenile sharks’.

Taking data during a juvenile shark workup. Photo by Henriette Grimmel | © Save Our Seas Foundation

I was very fond of the juvenile shark project since this was something I took a liking to from a very young age and I wish to pursue this interest and passion in my future endeavours. I had the chance to learn about the mark-recapture techniques to capture these juvenile sharks, both shark species  that can be found in the atoll; Black tip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and the Sicklefin Lemon Sharks (Negaprion acutidens). I also had the opportunity to learn how to take measurements, tag the sharks with a small electronic ID tag (passive integrated transponder, or PIT tag) and take a small part the fin for DNA samples, amongst many other interesting episodes throughout my journey. Additionally, working at SOSF-DRC gave me the opportunity to get more diving experiences under my belt and I was even fortunate enough to dive with Mantas!

A blacktip reef shark about to be released by Saratha. Photo by Henriette Grimmel | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Leaving D’Arros was a bittersweet feeling. I was sad to leave behind the days of waking up to new adventures, but I left with a fulfilled heart knowing that I gained an appreciable amount of knowledge and experience with the SOSF-DRC team. Thank you to everyone who made my time on the island a memorable experience!

Saratha is actually returning for some fieldwork on juvenile sharks in the atoll in December 2021 as part of her BSc thesis on the body condition of different species of sharks. Learn more about her and her project here.

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