Hard work does pay off

I don’t get much chance to actually work with turtles here but I’ll grab every opportunity given. Compared to night patrols in Costa Rica, this is considered light work. The nesting beach at Bubbles Dive Resort is less than 500m. The patrol is done on an hourly basis. Most of the time I’ll just hang around in the cafe surfing the net or be on a hammock star gazing!

I was really happy to see a turtle laying eggs for the FIRST TIME in Malaysia. I know well enough that every project has its own protocols, working procedures, rules and regulations…etc. I wasn’t entirely sure what Bubbles does when there is a turtle on shore. I only knew they do not tag the turtles. I assume they don’t measure the turtles as well. I like the fact that the turtles are less disturbed when there is less human contact. All I had gathered for the past few months is they collect and count the number of eggs and put them into a bucket. Every morning the fisheries guys would come and transfer the eggs to a turtle hatchery. However, Bubbles is allowed to keep 20 eggs per nest.

Each time I see a turtle on shore laying eggs here, I really miss working with them – tagging, measuring, marking a nest, counting eggs with the face directly behind her ass, checking for barnacles and etc. In Costa Rica, turtle patrol was accompanied by sand flying all over my body, being hit by flippers, furious mosquitoes and sandfly bites, stumping onto logs, terrifying feeling of jaguar, crocodiles or poachers encounters, bat flying straight into my face, soaking wet in a downpour with lightning and thunder…still I miss every moment of it.

Locals here have been collecting turtle eggs and consuming them since centuries ago. Poachers became their new labels when Perhentian Islands became a marine park. The Department of Fisheries takes care of the turtle hatchery here. Bubbles has their own hatchery too. Volunteers patrol the beach every night to scare off poachers and protect the eggs. I had never dug out a nest before the hatchlings hatch. All nests are left in their natural conditions in Tortuguero, However, it is not the case at Perhentian. The eggs will be poached if they were left on the beach.

On my first try, I was quite afraid that I might accidentally shake the eggs. It felt weird transferring eggs into a bucket. I felt they should be left in the nature. After some time, I started to accept the way turtle conservation practices are done here. The very first time, I did not really wanna hold the eggs so Gareth put them onto my palm and Wendy took them off my palm and placed them into a bucket. My second time, I actually helped Dan to picked them up from the ground after he removed them out of the nest but it took Dan and I a very long time to find the nest. My third time was the best experience. I actually watched the turtle while she was digging an egg chamber. I marked the position of the nest with a stick and after it covered up the nest and left the beach, I started to locate the nest. I gotta say, these mother turtles did a great job in camouflaging the nests! Fortunately, I found the nest and the next challenge is to take these eggs out without harming them! It ain’t that easy actually. Whenever I excavated a nest in the past, most were egg shells or unhatched eggs but with freshly-laid eggs, I needed to be extra careful not to squeeze or squash them!

A mama turtle digging a bodypit

Then she laid the eggs into the egg chamber

After seeing six cute hatchlings this morning, I feel that all the hard work and effort all this while actually pays off! It took Dr. Archie Carr almost half a decade to establish what they have now in Tortuguero. Turtle and coral conservation at Perhentian is still at the initial stage and I don’t know how long it will take the locals to learn that they are responsible for their action and to protect the island and its marine life. At least conservation and education effort has started, it just has to go on to make an impact in a long run!

My feeling after seeing the hatchlings – every effort was worth it!

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