10 June, 2010

Watching turtles

April and August are the best times of the year to watch giant turtles come to lay their eggs on the beaches at Dungun, Terengganu. Turtles are among the world's largest living creatures. They live to a very old age, perhaps a hundred years or so. Another fascinating fact is that they come from as far away as South America to the same beaches here time and again. Scientists believe that these turtles manage to find the East Coast beaches because they were born there. Instinct guides them back.

Turtle-watching has become a big business in Dungun. Visitors arrive at night and wait for a few hours. The turtles start coming in the early hours of the morning. They dig large holes in the sand and deposit about one hundred and fifty eggs each. While laying eggs, the turtles do not seem to care about what happens around them. Visitors can touch them or even ride on their backs. After the eggs have been laid and the holes covered up, the turtles return to the sea. They only reappear the following year.

There are some among the spectators who steal the eggs or disturb the turtles. These are undesirable actions that have resulted in less turtles coming to the beach to lay their eggs. Perhaps one day, the turtles will stop coming altogether. Watching the turtles is fine but disturbing them is definitely not right and one should refrain from doing so.

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