By the end of this week, I have been one month at Tortuguero! As I was watching hatchlings emerged from the nest yesterday to embark their life journeys, it struck me hard that I am so going to miss turtles when this program ends.
Turtles have somehow been connected to me. I was born at Terengganu, a state once well-know for leatherback turtles. However, their number has declines dramatically, approximately 99% since the past two or three decades. While I was in Swiss, my host family gave me a nickname – turtle because I walk slow comparative to them. I used to hate being called a turtle but eventually I get used to it. I have never seen a leatherback yet but I had my encounter with green and hawkbills turtles during snorkelling and diving trips. I have seen them in the sea but never when they climb ashore to nest. Therefore, to see so many turtles everyday and night is magnificent!
I still remember being not only excited, but also terrified of this enormous marine creature. Hatchlings are extremely cute but the female adults are huge. Being so near to one did freak me out especially when it breathed. Some behaved aggressively…moving the flippers frantically when I wanted to tag! Even scarier when they turned the head towards me. I imagined a few times, how it would be to work with turtles if they are able to moan in pain or have teeth to bite! I assume tagging will no longer be an option used to identify them.
When I first started, I knew I have to tag more turtles to get the hang of it – to tag precisely at the right place, at the same time avoid being slapped by the flippers. It is definitely getting better now, although I still lose tags before tagging. It is best to work with them when they are covering up. However, it still depends on the individual as some are more sensitive.
This week has been a good one – Sehling Björn’s (sounds very much like Celine Dion) Week. Por que? Two nights off, one morning survey, one night patrol and one day cleaning with Björn. The highlight would be rescuing a turtle stuck in the vegetation. I really wonder how did it get itself into that situation! It wasn’t just stuck but was way up a cliff! Good that Andy was strong enough to pull the roots off her. We both carried it off the cliff (it was real heavy!) and waited for it to return to the sea. Being ashore and struggling for so long, she was too tired to move. I hope it makes it safely into the ocean!