Ten­der turtle love

Dif­fer­ent way to ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty tereng­ganu is to beaches on dark to look out for

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cov­ered

ing made me take a flight af­ter from Pe­nang to Kuala Lumpur, and then to wake up at a flight to Redang is­land in to vol­un­teer to save tur­tles? was guilt. vaguely that years ago our driven to Tereng­ganu and had pur­chased turtle eggs. boiled three eggs and dis­they could not harden. The swal­lowed those eggs with and pep­per and then my son one egg in our gar­den hophatch­lings would emerge. this legacy of guilt, my

law Daphne and I had en­thu­si­as­ti­cally vol­un­teered to save Cha­gar Hu­tang, a re­mote part is­land. The Seatru (Sea Turtle vol­un­teer pro­gramme was 1998 to as­sist long term con­ser­va­tion. It was in­tro­duced of Univer­siti Malaysia where we met up with co­or­di­na­tors while car­ry­ing our

and sleep­ing bags.

first, re­lax later

vol­un­teers! Re­mem­ber sav­ing one of the won­ders of re­minded Dr Juanita Joseph, charge of the pro­gramme. en­joy snorkelling and hikhave to work first. There is

Af­ter work­ing, then you ex­plained Vickie Chew, the of­fi­cer.

are re­quired to as­sist in house­keep­ing and beach clean­were eight vol­un­teers and was to carry huge bags of canned food plus buck­ets to the boat. Af­ter reach­ing Hu­tang, we had to jump into

and carry all the bags to the

carry the three small­est bags?“sheep­ishly as I strug­gled

huge ruck­sack, slip­pers, hat and sling bag.

I ap­peared to be the only mid­dleaged mother around – the other seven vol­un­teers com­prised youth­ful, mus­cu­lar men and en­er­getic younger ladies. Thank­fully, we formed a hu­man chain and hands passed all the bags to our home for the next week. Daphne sighed, “Look at the huts and floor! It’s messy. And there is no elec­tric­ity, our phones won’t work ... no In­ter­net for days!”

Thank­fully, af­ter lunch and a brief­ing by Chew, we set­tled down to re­lax.

“Look! There is a mouse deer in the com­pound!” some­one shouted ex­cit­edly.

There were two mouse deers for­ag­ing for food nearby. Huge mon­i­tor lizards also roamed near the rub­bish heap, while macaque mon­keys darted in and out of the trees, grab

bing pieces of food from the dust­bin. Squir­rels were run­ning around the kitchen roof and one brave one tried to bite through some plas­tic boxes to eat the bis­cuits in­side.

When we stud­ied the duty ros­ter, I re­alised, to my dis­ap­point­ment, that Daphne and I had to be on duty from mid­night to 3am that very night, to wait for tur­tles to lay eggs. We were told that we could rest on the beach on mats, but ev­ery hour we also had to pa­trol along the dark beach with a moon­less sky, to look out for tur­tles.

Af­ter din­ner we sat on the beach and were com­forted by the sight of sparkling stars against a bril­liant dark sky. Both of us were sleepy and ex­hausted, but we had to do our pa­trols. I had thought that see­ing tur­tles was dif­fi­cult but at 8.30pm I saw a large dark shape crawl­ing onto the soft white sand.

“Oh! It’s a mother turtle go­ing to lay eggs!” I whis­pered ex­cit­edly to Daphne.

Then we caught sight of two more huge tur­tles fur­ther down. There were 11 of us on duty and we had di­vided

Grace and beauty: a green turtle swim­ming freely off the coast of redang is­land. — Photo cour­tesy of Seatru

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