Despite the idea of spending your days on a beautiful Greek beach looking after turtles sounds idyllic, Franki explains it is not a volunteering project for the faint-hearted.
Having previously volunteered with the same project, Franki never thought she would be able to volunteer there again whilst in a full-time job. Wanting to help the threatened Loggerhead turtles in the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, Franki was able to take advantage of the six days of special volunteers leave offered within DE&S, enabling her to take part once again.
Franki explained: “Daily life can get repetitive and taking time out to volunteer for a worthy cause allows you to appreciate that there’s more to life than just working.”
Having grown up on the beaches of Borneo, Franki feels deeply connected with the ocean thus making the project a more personal and rewarding process.
Franki, alongside 70 other turtle enthusiasts from around the world, would wake up at 5am to identify new turtle tracks and nests, as well as protecting the hatchlings at night.
“We would walk up to eight miles a day in the 45-degree heat, looking for tracks and monitoring nests,” said Franki.
“We protected the nesting sites from tourists and predators with wire frames and GPS tracking devices and manned information kiosks for tourists as a way to educate people and generate donations by selling turtle merchandise.
“Sadly, when tourists saw the hatchlings making their way down the beach towards the ocean, they would pick them up and take them to the water thinking they were helping. But the journey from their nests to the ocean is essential for the development of their muscles, and putting the turtles straight into the water causes the turtles to drown.”
At the information kiosks and at local hotels, the volunteers would educate tourists and holiday makers on what they can do to help conserve the loggerhead turtles and how they can prevent unnecessary deaths such as explaining that turtles are ‘phototactic’ – they use the moon to guide them to the sea – was essential information to share as the turtles try to make their way towards the moonlight when they have hatched. Bright street lights and shop fronts can confuse the turtles, meaning they move across the sand towards the street rather than the water.
Rescue missions for injured turtles were also a frequent occurrence during Franki’s time in Greece.
Franki explained that one day they had a call for a turtle whose flipper had been damaged by a fishing hook.
“When we located the turtle and lifted her out of the sea, the flipper fell off as a result of the hook causing nerve damage.” This turtle was taken to a rehabilitation centre in Athens, where she is learning to cope with one less flipper.”
Franki found the opportunity incredibly rewarding and if it wasn’t for DE&S’ volunteer leave policy, Franki would not have been able to take part in such a vital and enjoyable volunteering role.
Find out more about our volunteer leave policy here.