10 days away from the city, devoted to turtle mothers in Con Dao, is a memorable trip of Khang Tran after many missed appointments.
“Raiding sea turtles is a very hard but meaningful job. 10 days living on the island, I lost a few kilograms. However, this is one of the most memorable memories in my life,” Khang Tran (KhangDerlust) excitedly shared with Zing about the trip “to deliver” the birth of sea turtles in Con Dao in June 2020.
Lucky to be a volunteer from the first registration
As someone who loves to explore the environment, or activities related to biodiversity conservation, Khang has participated in several environmental volunteer programs at home and abroad.
Knowing about the Sea Turtle Conservation program by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Management Board of Con Dao National Park from 3 years ago, he has wanted to participate many times but could not arrange the time. .
In the middle of last year, he took a break from work to apply to be a volunteer in the program.
To meet the criteria of a volunteer to protect sea turtles is not easy. “I also heard many people say they have applied for a few years but have not been selected,” Khang shared. However, a month after the registration date, he was fortunate to receive a congratulatory email from IUCN.
“At that time, I was excited because I was about to meet sea turtles in real life, not on TV. Not only that, I also watched them lay eggs naturally, without human influence,” Khang said.
Khang prepares compact luggage for a 10-day trip on the island. Starting from Ho Chi Minh City, he chose to take a bus to Soc Trang, pass through Tran Deport and take a train to Con Dao to join other volunteers from many places on the S-shaped strip of land.
After gathering and hearing from the coordinator about the program, Khang and another volunteer were assigned the task of “fading the birth” of turtles in the Bai Duong forest ranger’s nest.
The forest ranger group of Duong beach – the place to lean on the primeval forest with diverse flora and fauna.
In Con Dao National Park, there are about 18 beaches where turtles lay eggs. In which, 5 beaches with large areas and the highest number of mother turtles giving birth such as Bay Canh island, Duong beach, Cau island, Tre Lon island, Tai island are arranged with ranger stations to protect natural resources. nature and conservation of sea turtles.
After preparing food to live on the island for 10 days, Khang and his companions moved to the assigned location.
“Welcoming us at Bai Duong is the warmth of two 9X boys who are full of enthusiasm”, Khang confided. In which, ranger Cao Duc Cuong, who has worked here for 3 years, and a student from Ha Thanh who just graduated from university, Nguyen Danh Thien. Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, he could not continue to go to Belgium to pursue a master’s degree, so he applied to work as a temporary worker for 2 months.
Staying up all night to “midwife” for sea turtles
Every time he goes to the beach, Khang will be woken up by the rangers when it is time for the turtles to spawn. With his experience, Mr. Cuong can predict the time when turtles will spawn by observing the tide table. The time is usually from 2 am.
The biology of the species is very sensitive to sound and light, so all activities must take place in silence. “While the turtle is laying, you must not shine the light in the turtle’s eyes and stand right at the turtle’s head,” Khang recalled the park ranger’s reminder.
Right on the first night, Khang witnessed the whole scene of turtles laying eggs. “I was very excited and surprised, but I couldn’t say it, I had to hold back because I was afraid that the mother turtle would hear it and leave,” Khang shared.
Khang was happy when he first held a turtle egg in his hand.
Breeding turtles is a job that requires a lot of patience. The reproductive process of the mother turtle takes a long time, about a few hours.
Mother turtles often choose a place where the sand does not subside, there are no obstacles such as reefs, and is not too close to the water’s edge to dig a nest to lay eggs. Mother turtles use their forelimbs to dig holes 30-40 cm deep, about 20 cm wide, and then begin to lay.
In each hole, turtles usually lay more than 100 fruits, even 200 fruits. After laying, they will fill in the sand, erase the traces, make sure the nest is safe, and then return to the sea.
There are also those that are “hard to give birth”, after digging holes, crawling back and forth, even returning to the sea.
When going to the beach, if the turtle has already laid, the ranger will identify the nest based on the movement and use a sand stick to check.
Turtle footprints printed in the sand – one of the signals to detect turtles on the sand to find a place to lay eggs.
“For those that were laying, we were instructed to put up a stake to make a sign and go somewhere else, wait until the turtle is done laying, then come back,” Khang said.
When the mother turtles have finished laying and return to the sea, the task of the volunteers is to dig their nests by hand to get the eggs and put them in the hatchery under the guidance of the rangers. All operations must be done gently, carefully, and quickly. Because within 6 hours from the time the turtle lays, the eggs must be incubated.
“The first time I held a turtle egg in my hand, I was both happy and afraid of breaking the egg. Turtle eggs have good elasticity, but I still have to be careful,” Khang shared.
Each sand pit, turtles usually lay more than 100 eggs.
When the eggs are brought back to the sand tank, the next job is to dig the sand nest again, put the eggs down, and fill it up. After about 45 days, the eggs will hatch into baby turtles. Rangers often rely on signs of quicksand to know if there are baby turtles moving below.
The time to finish the work of the “midwife” team for sea turtles is not fixed. Favorable days can be 4 o’clock, sometimes as late as 6-7 o’clock. The main task was repeated in the same way for 10 days of the volunteer trip.
The sand lake for hatching turtle eggs belongs to the forest ranger team of Duong beach.
Memorable trip in life
“Conservation of sea turtles during the breeding season is really hard. I remember the first time I dug a hole nest with my own hands was on a gray rainy day, at that time I was naturally a little emotional. That’s what I saw. What are 10 days of volunteering for sea turtle conservation with the year-round devotion of the rangers here,” Khang confided?
Since there are only 4 people living on the island, Khang gradually understands the personalities of his companions. He understood why ranger Cuong chose to stick with the wildlife on the island. Khang learned the story of Thien, a student Ha Thanh born in 1998 who had never had to help with housework, who chose Con Dao as a turtle rescuer.
Khang said that after 10 days living on the island, he lost a few kilograms, but he felt that his decision to join this trip was completely right. Because that’s the time when he can do what he likes and also a vacation to purify the body.
In his free time, Khang often goes to the beach swing to read books and drink coffee.
Spending time with sea turtles, Khang learned from the rangers here a huge lesson on how to conserve nature and marine life.
He knows that sea turtles are very sensitive animals, they have the ability to recognize images of the place where they were born. Because when they mature, they will return to the place of birth to lay eggs. That is also one of the reasons when releasing turtles into the sea, they must be released from the sand so that they can crawl into the sea on their own. The path to the sea is only a few meters from the water’s edge. However, it is the way for the baby turtles to start getting used to the outside environment before receiving water, remembering where they were born, and will return here to maintain the breed.
“This trip is also my first time to Con Dao. When I came here, I knew how beautiful and precious the Con Dao sea is and why generations must come together to preserve it”, Khang confided.
After the trip to Con Dao, he planned to enroll as a volunteer to protect sea turtles at the Hon Cau conservation area (Binh Thuan) and a sea turtle protection program in Malaysia. However, due to the Covid-19 epidemic, all his plans were canceled.
Con Dao can be considered as the “turtle land” of Vietnam when the amount of sea turtle eggs born here accounts for 80% of the total number in the country. The 80% figure may seem large, but the rate of turtles being born, surviving, and returning to the sea is only 0.1%. With a low survival rate, sea turtles are included in the Red Book of Vietnam as well as around the world.
The spawning season of sea turtles usually lasts about April-October, in which the peak is July-September. Therefore, at this time, the management board of Con Dao National Park often lacks resources to conserve sea turtles and needs support. Follow zingnews
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