A little drama has been unfolding during this month in our little Island that has got everybody’s fins in a twist. For the longest time anyone living in the southern coastal belt has seen hundreds of sea turtles that comes ashore and frolic in the water. The females nest they eggs in the sand and after about 45 -70 days the little babies hatch and emerge out of the sand and wiggle their way back to the sea. Seeing one of these little beauties take their first footsteps and swim is truly a religious experience and they are unbelievably cute to boot.
In the southern tip of the island we have a turtle hatchery and a sanctuary and there are many local organizations who are working hard to conserve their habitat and ensure that we have these lovely creatures as part of our marine Eco system.
A few weeks ago there was a report that the owner of the hatchery had made a complaint to the police that one of the albino turtles had gone missing. Immediately there was an uproar as the albino turtles are are and very expensive ( a report claimed as much as 40 million rupees. I have deep issues with such a valuation in the first place. I find it abominable that a living creature can have a price tag. This is the whole reason that they are hunted and killed and anyone who is caught should be flogged or hanged from a yard arm!! But that is a discussion for a separate post) and there are rumors that they are used for various medicines. But the inspiring aspect of this story is that immediately the policy got involved with the case and the media was alerted and there was a speedy investigation. Things took a sensational twist when a popular mainstream singer was accused of stealing the turtle. The man was summoned to the police station and questioned an further investigation ensured. Press conferences were held, charges were levied and denounced and appeals were made for public sympathy and police were threatened with defamation as the scandalized public berated the man hurled insults via social media. The turtle however still remained missing.
After a few more days another report came that the missing turtle had been found in the hatchery owner’s daughter’s house. Police immediately jumped on the scene with media in tow and secured the said turtle. The hatchery owner who was immediately summoned and informed of the latest development went into to such an acute state of shock that he had to be immediately hospitalized ( Feigning illness to evade arrest has become a new tactic among culprits) and to add to this whole debacle another white turtle who had been in the hatchery died as the report revealed due to inhospitable living conditions. Public indignation rose to fever pitch! The police who smelled foul play arrested the hatchery owner for false allegations and misconduct. Custody of the poor albino turtles were taken over by the local Zoo authorities and based on a directive relocated to the Zoo.
This drama gripped the entire country and for once it was encouraging to see the attention the authorities and the media gave this issue. In a country where most causes such as animal rights are marginalized it was heartrending to see that everyone was determined to do the right thing. However this morning’s papers carried the sad news that one of the albino turtles who were relocated had died! The cause for this is probably the fact they were removed from their natural habitat as the Zoo is in Colombo and not near the sea and its also possible the poor animal was too stressed during the whole debacle of transport and succumbed in the end.
Everyone who read this news was quite shattered ( by the overwhelming number of reports and comments on social media) as in the bid to save the animal we ended up killing it. The local Zoo has been questioned by the police and they in turn have given a press statement and several media interviews and stated that there will be a postmortem to determine the exact cause of death.
Despite the almost hilarious twists of this saga you may wonder what is all this hullabaloo about a turtle when we have so much crime and rape and all kinds of evil taking place on a daily basis and why i am writing about this.
The reason is sometimes when you take the grander scheme of things humans issues are almost always rated above nature and other species and for once i was proud and happy to see the people as well as the lethargic underfunded government agencies, social groups, NGO’s and and even the constantly overwhelmed police department actually rolled up their sleeves and tackle this problem with gusto and is tenaciously fighting for justice despite the setbacks. In this new year this is truly an good sign.
But truly, i am really sad for these poor turtles and i hope this issue will raise awareness and get more and more people and conservationist groups to be more vigilant and aware of the world around us and step in and intervene and save what is left of our environment and all the wonderful creatures in it.