My turtle and her eggs
With a little play and storytelling I told the children gathered at the PJ library, the story of One Tiny Turtle. Wasn't I delighted when some days later, I read in the papers that a leatherback - the largest of the sea turtles- has made a surprise return to Rantau Abang beach after 32 years. Conservationists call it a 'miracle' for the endangered species . With renewed hopes, we welcome our rare turtle back to our Trengganu shores 'coz we nearly whacked it away for eternity due to poaching, pollution and overfishing. Seriously, numbers dwindled from up to 10,000 female turtles in 1950s to only 5 nests from 2 turtles without any hatchlings emerging in 2006. We have sadly 'over-fished' in our own waters, so to speak .
Happily this reptilian giant turtle dubbed the 'Puteri Rantau Abang' or Rantau Abang Princess was released back into the sea carrying a satellite transmitter which will help conservationists track turtle migration patterns. So long, 'princess'. Till you return to Rantau Abang.
Nicola Davies' One Tiny Turtle, illustrated by Jane Chapman is an absolute gem. The text scores highly as it makes nature facts so alive and interesting. The illustrations paint the undersea world of the loggerhead turtle from a tiny turtle to adult so beautifully. Every child will want to discover more and be in wonder of the turtle.
The story goes on - turtle leaves for the seas again, eggs hatch in the warm sand, hatchlings wriggle out of the shells and head towards the sea, predators lurk above and below. Only one makes its way to safely to the ocean. Here's a text of the struggle :
In the dark, claws and beaks and grabbing paws miss just one young turtle. One day, she'll remember this beach and come back. But now she dives under the waves and swims. SWims and swims! Out into the arms of the ocean. Far, far out to sea, land becoms a memory waiting to wake in the head of the little turtle.' - One Tiny Turtle
It has been many years since my family last saw the leatherback turtle laying eggs. We waited in our car in the dark at Rantau Abang. An excited voice rang out calling for tourists like us to follow him. I remember holding our children's hands, stumbling in the sand, heading towards the nesting beach and following the dim light of the torchlight. It certainly felt like a night adventure, full of high expectations.
The guide signalled us to be quiet. Turtles are very sensitive to light and noise. There was a hushed silence as we stopped a distance away from our very important visitor. In the cool night breeze, the huge blackish, reptilian mound was already busy digging away the sand, making a hole deep and steep enough to deposit her eggs. How can I forget the egg laying? Never! It was an esctatic feeling to see the ping pong size eggs go 'plop, plop, plop, one by one. Amazingly white and glistening under the moonlight. When it was all over, the huge flippers swung and swept the sand to cover the precious eggs from predators.
With the young captive audience, I took the opportunity to be the big turtle. I 'reprised' the role of the turtle. All of them have not seen a turtle laying eggs nor have they heard about our very own leatherback turtles. My legs and arms were the hind and fore flippers. The children were amused and played along when I dropped the eggs! - so many and each time one dropped, they shouted 'plop!'.
It was a rewarding session. There was an air of excitement too as the kids drew turtles . We even walked like turtles in a song 'I'm just a baby turtle'! Kids wanna have fun as they learn - facts become so digestible! Lastly to the sounds of their laughter, as they headed for home, they were asked to find out more about the varieties of turtles we have that nest on our beaches - hawksbill , olive ridley , green and of course, the giant of them all, the leatherbacks.