A Turtle Story, on the World Environment Day
Ever since I came to the Andaman Islands, I wanted to see the turtles. They told me those parts of the islands were frequented by turtles- nearly half a dozen different species of them. That was an exciting piece of information and I was eagerly wandering along the serene seashores of Middle Andaman Isles for sighting the big daddy of the tortoises.
But unfortunately for me, no turtles came on my way during the numerous rounds I undertook along the seashores. I began to consider the turtle story only as a myth. Then one day I could trace a few tracks the turtles left on the beach sand, like the trails of truck tyres, running along the wet sand and disappearing in the wavy sea. They told me the turtles came to the sea shores during night, dug a pit and laid eggs there and would fill in the pit and went back to sea. It rekindled my spirits and I continued the search.
One summer evening, I was taking an evening walk along a long and beautiful beach, some two miles away from the Vidyalaya campus. There were no tourists on the beach. Some boys ran along and played on the golden beach sand. There was a hamlet of Telugu fishermen by the beach. Some of the fishing boats were pulled ashore and parked on the strand. I could see a group of boys standing crowded at a spot. There was some excitement in the air, some shouting and commotion. I made my way through the crowd.
What I saw on the sand was a curious sight. The boys were looking intently on a spot of loose, rumpled sand. Then, the sand began to bulge up gently. Up came a tiny head. Then, a pair of limbs. Further, the shelly body. It was a baby turtle. Just coming out from hatch! As I looked on, more and more turtle cubs kept on coming up, struggling their way up through the sand. That was a hatch of turtles coming out of their eggs. It was a marvelous sight! Dozens of turtle cubs, only as big as the palm of a boy, emerging out of the sand. The boys carried them to the wet strand, close to the waves. The turtle cubs crawled towards the water and disappeared in the tides. It looked like the Hindu rituals, where they offer things to the sea.
The boys told me that it was a lucky batch of turtle cubs.
Often, they are spotted by stray dogs or eagles when they come out, and very few of them manage to reach their home, the sea. But luckily for these cubs, none of the boys were wicked. They did not play the cruel games that the children generally play with hapless animals. The boys were fishermen’s children and most of them were illiterate. But they took enormous pleasure and pride in saving a hatch of turtles from the predators and reaching them safely to the sea.
On the World Environment Day, the tiny turtles come to my mind and the jubilant faces of the boys- away, along the shores of Andaman. If the unlettered children of the fisher folk could play their part in safeguarding our endangered amphibians, how much more could each one of us do to save this ailing planet !?
On 5 June 2007