Last night played out exactly like a scene in a TV show. Titled Turtle Island, the series would be about the sexy rangers and dedicated conservationists that live on a tiny island and are in a race against time to save the sea creatures. It would probably be cancelled after two episodes.
We were on Turtle Island in Borneo to witness conservation in action: turtles come ashore at night, dig a hole, and lay up to 100 eggs, then rangers collect the eggs, take them to the hatchery, where they get placed in a safer hole in a ground and incubate for about two months until the babies are ready to be released into the sea.
At about 9pm we were called to the beach, egg laying was in process.
As we excitedly walked to the beach, it felt as though Central Casting had heard of a nightly show happening on the island, and our hoard of “regular people with enough diversity to make the network happy” had intersected and tied up the real scientists that were supposed to be witnessing and cataloging this moment.
We stood around the female turtle, 30 extras who were taking pictures and blinding listening to stats, “according to her ID, she was here five months ago,” – as if on cue, we all nodded, solemly, as if we knew what that implied (that she had given birth five months ago, but something had scared her off, so now she had come back to finish the job).
“She dropped 63 eggs tonight…”
I was trying to appreciate the moment, this miracle of birth, but really, this reality show was too real. I was acutely aware that we were invading this poor turtle’s privacy -we weren’t really doctors, we couldn’t save her if anything went wrong – we didn’t need to be there, most we could do is fall over ourselves taking pictures.
We were just tourists, who had shown up on the right day wearing the right clothes, all wanting to play a part in saving the creatures that have survived since the dinosuars, but may not survive the invention of plastic bags.
And I hope, in some small, mostly monetary way – we helped.