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  • Day46

    Mon Repos

    November 26, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    This was one of those experiences when I wasn’t sure whether I was part of the problem or the solution. AUS $23million had been spent on refurbishing the education centre. The information was great, beautiful videos about radio-tagged turtles and their journeys and photos, information sheets, interactive things for kids etc.

    The process is that we were all collected from a car park that is situated about 1 mile from the centre using a shuttle bus driving with no lights on. Once everyone arrived outside the centre (around 7:00) we were allowed in via a process of checking tickets etc. There is a small cafe, gift shop, education stuff etc. We were divided into two groups. I was told that there can be up to 60 people in each group. We were badge numbers 31 and 32 of group 2. Then we wait until a turtle comes up onto t(e beach where rangers are patrolling to spot them. Once a turtle is up and found a nesting spot, the group are taken to watch. The public cannot approach until the turtle is nesting as she won’t abandon her nest after she has started laying, but may abandon it if simply digging it.

    There were a lot of rules, no torches, no taking photographs until told, no devices that illuminate (smart-watches, phones etc)) stay behind the ranger, do as you’re told.

    The risk is that no turtles come onto the beach. I’m not sure if you lose your money 😩. More likely, they don’t arrive until 11 or 12:00 by which time everyone has spent their life savings at the cafe or gift shop and the young children are so fractious that there is a lynch party out to take them from their parents and lock them in a cupboard.

    Fortunately the first group were called at about 7:30 and then our group around 8:00. We were taken out of the centre and told that we would have to walk along a walkway, down to the beach. Be quiet, no torches etc. We spent a short while to get our “night vision” and then set off. A short way along the walkway there was a strobe light that flashed and immediately blinded you if you’d been looking in that direction. Night vision totally lost, we walked into each other, trampled the old and infirm underfoot until we could see again when .... flash - another strobe light. Who designed this? After a series of regaining night vision and then being blinded, those of us who had not fallen by the wayside stumbled off the walkway onto the beach where we regrouped.

    We were taken along the beach and handed over to another ranger. Taken further along the beach to a big blob that we were told was a turtle that had dug her nest and conveniently had laid an LED light in the nest! All of us had to stand behind her (she was facing up the beach), with the front row kneeling, the next row standing, the short people at the back not seeing anything and getting frustrated.

    Once she had finished laying we formed a circle around her while the ranger and an assistant bought eggs around for us to try, well, touch, eating turtle eggs is frowned upon.

    The rangers each took her measurements for precision, checked the tag numbers, called HQ and were told to re-tag her. I put tags in our sheep’s ears and that makes me wince, but a tag in a turtle fin, ouch. I think it made her eyes water too. The rangers were quick to point out that their eyes always run, making it look like they are crying.

    She flicked sand over us as she buried the eggs and scampered down to the see with us all trailing behind her.

    There were a lot of anti-plastic, anti ambient light messages etc. There is a lot of conservation and attempts to ensure the eggs have the best chance to hatch, being relocated if laid in a bad place, and that the hatchlings get to the sea. As we walked back being intermittently blinded,

    Back at the centre we were given information about the turtle we had seen, how many times she had laid eggs etc. They mate with multiple turtles and store the sperm. They then beach to lay eggs 3 to 6 times at approx 2 week intervals, during a laying year; each time having to haul themselves onto the beach and dig a hole. She may lay again after 3 or 4 or more years.

    It struck me as a bit of a circus that I was contributing to. I just wondered if I was contributing to their survival or their demise. If I was that turtle I would never go back on land again.
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