10 seconds is all it takes to fall in love with these baby sea turtles. It took me just 3!
Because it was time to wish these little fellas a very happy birthday – few hours since they’ve hatched. 😀
This is a little personal, you can skip it if you want to read about the turtles in Sri Lanka. 😊
When I was in school, we had two Malaysian turtles that looked like green coins. One was named after my sister (Nitisha) and the other after me. My namesake was smaller, and lost at every possible trick – whether it was racing towards the tank or eating or getting the best spot in the tank; but I loved her. Both my turtles were ballers, they even scared the street cats who finally decided it was in their best interest to maintain a safe distance. After months of what I thought was an amazing life, my namesake passed away. I had read about hibernation and was convinced that Ritika was just sleeping. After a long long time, I came to terms with the reality. My mother thought getting me another turtle would cure me of the sadness, but I refused to name it (thinking it all happened because of me, my name). We finally decided to let our turtles live a happy life in a friend’s well. Every now and then they’d climb onto one of the protruding bricks and bask in the sun, do some yoga and in those moments I knew they were both happy. After that day, I’ve never had any pets; because I honestly didn’t know how to deal with death.
But if you know me, or have read some of my blogs, you’d know just how much I love animals. And taking care of turtles, pandas, elephants, birds, all sorts of animals and insects is my dream deal. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it my job, because it can never ever feel like one. And it will happen soon, for now let me share what my friend Chalana from Sri Lanka is up to.
The Man Behind the Cause
A 24-year-old Buddhist Sri Lankan, Chalana, has been running this Sea Turtle Conservation Project for the past 3 years. During this time, he has saved thousands of sea turtles. Over 2 crore baby sea turtles have been released and about 100 big turtles have been treated.
Inspired by the turtle’s nesting process, Chalana constructed this huge piece of art within which he built an aquarium.
From small sharks, starfish, lobsters and a seahorse; you can see them all!
As you exit, you can see the mama sea turtle’s nesting process too.
When Chalana was just 12, he tried to free a mama turtle who was entangled in a fishing net. She was so afraid that she rushed back to the ocean without laying any eggs, and this troubled Chalana for months together. He’d sleep by the beach sometimes with the hope that he could save the others and make them feel safe again. Years later, he continues to fulfil his promise.
Chalana recalls treating a turtle that had plastic in her stomach too. ☹
He knows there are thousands of turtles that would need medical attention but will never get it. The solution is simple – we need to stop polluting the sea. Start small – don’t litter!
What’s Chalana’s Day Like
Chalana starts off by cleaning and feeding all the sea turtles in his conversation centre. His staff along with volunteers from across the globe love to assist him, and I can completely understand why. Chalana understands turtles like no other and they respond to him with equal affection.
Chalana wants to spread his knowledge and love with all those who visit him. Whether it’s the locals or tourists, Chalana talks to them about the nesting and egg-hatching process.
He also takes people through the different kinds of turtles and why it is important to protect them. As he interacts with hundreds of people every week, he hopes at least some will be inspired to stop polluting or harming the marine life.
The Night’s More Adventurous
Chalana sets out at night with his volunteers to ensure that no turtle mama is hurt while nesting or returning to the ocean. He then carefully relocates the eggs to his hatchery where they cannot be harmed by poachers, dogs, birds and people strolling on the beach.
He also saves endangered sea turtles from poachers who might sell these little babies for their shell, eggs and meat. Chalana explained that usually, he ends up buying (rescuing) turtles from poachers and locals. He understands that the locals are very poor and they can’t help but resort to such tactics. He doesn’t believe in living in a bubble and understands the way the food chain works, but if he doesn’t save these endangered turtles, our future generations may never get to see them.
Some turtle facts for those who love them as much as I do:
- Turtles are one of earth’s most ancient creatures, and have been around since the time of dinosaurs!
- Their eggs look like pingpong balls.
- Mama sea turtles return to the same nesting grounds at which they were born.
- Some turtles travel over 10000 miles a year!
- Male sea turtles don’t ever leave the sea, since they don’t have to return to the shore to lay eggs.
- A sea turtle’s gender depends on the temperature. If the eggs are laid in a warm temperature, it produces females while cooler temperatures produce males!
- We are the reason they are endangered.
How You Can Help Chalana
Chalana’s not just looking for donations, he needs volunteers. If volunteers want to stay with him, help him and learn how to give back to nature; they can apply for his volunteering camp. All the proceeds go towards your course, meals and stay and the rest is used to take care of all the sea turtles that need constant care and attention. Oh, did I mention the Beach BBQ and Sri Lankan cooking sessions? Help him and make this a memorable experience for yourself!