Off on a journey

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From where I was, buried in the sand, I couldn’t hear much. Just a few muffled voices. ‘She’s stuck,’ said one, and another replied, ‘She’ll die if she stays out here.’ Someone else said she must be pretty stupid to keep pushing forward when she needed to go back and round. I figured out then she must have got stuck in some roots, but of course, she couldn’t go back because turtles don’t have a reverse gear. Stupid maybe but that’s how nature designed us.

I was afraid they might be poachers – there are still quite a few in Mayotte – and the poor thing would end up as a bowl of soup in China. But fortunately they turned out to be a group of naturalists who cut the branches and set her free. It was already late afternoon and she must have been there since the previous night, so it was none too soon. A few more hours and she’d have died of heat and dehydration.

A few hours later, I decided it was time. I’d been there a couple of months and the call of the sea was getting really powerful. So I pushed and heaved and eventually there I was on the moonlit sand, the scent of the ocean and the sound of the waves sending me into a frenzy of excitement. The sensation was so strong I was disoriented at first, and I had to twirl around a couple of times before I got my bearings, but then I made a turtle line for the sea. I was lucky to have the naturalists there because if you’re on your own you can get picked off by crows. It’s a one minute dash but that’s plenty of time to be devoured.

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The sand Mum put me in was warm, so I’m a female. To be honest, I’m not too happy about that. It means I’ll be back here one day as a mum myself, and from what I gather, nesting is a pretty strenuous experience. Even assuming you don’t get caught up in roots. Then there’s the whole copulation bit beforehand – a horrific ordeal! You just want it over and done with, but the guys drag it out for hours, clinging onto your back so you have to struggle all the time to get to the surface to breathe. Quite a few females drown. So yeah, I’m really not looking forward to that. Not a lot I can do about it, though. You can’t argue with Mother Nature, can you? Still, I think it’s high time someone started a gender equality movement for turtles. I might do that myself, come to think of it.

If I ever get that far, that is. Because getting into the sea is just the start. I’ll have to stay out of harm’s way till I’m big enough not to be eaten by the first grouper or snapper that comes along. And the odds aren’t good – less than 5% of us survive. Hardly encouraging, is it? On the other hand, we’ve been around for 200 million years, so we must have got something right. Will I be one of the lucky ones? Who knows? Wish me luck!

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