So, its 2.30am, I’m fast asleep and gently dribbling on my pillow. Suddenly the ‘phone rings, it’s my mate Bill (or is it Ben) “Mate mate, you’ve gotta get up now. I’ve got a turtle in the back of the car and we need to set it free”. Bugger.
Up I get, find the Maglite and await Ben (or is it Bill?) He pulls up about 5 minutes later, bottle of XXXX Gold in hand and I hear a furious thrashing from the back of his car. He has indeed got a turtle. A Green Turtle. And the bloody thing weighs about 80kg. He had been driving home through Dili when he saw three guys dragging the turtle through the streets. Apparently they had found it laying eggs, on a capital city beach mind you, and had just picked the thing up to take home and eat. Now Bill (or was it Ben?) is not a stupid man, far from it. He knows that to buy live turtles is only to encourage the capture and sale of the animals. He is also a sentimental bugger with some very rough edges. The guys demanded 50dollars for the turtle but my mate and his very tough girlfriend bargained them down to 15dollars. He couldn’t help himself and I don’t blame him. I would have done the same.
We take the turtle out of the car and carry it over the road to the beach, which isn’t an easy job because the turtle is big and heavy and thrashing around like a, well like a very distressed big turtle. We put it on the beach and it races off to the shoreline and dives in. No more turtle and hopefully it has survived the ordeal. And not even a backward glance to say thanks, ungrateful bugger.
When we were carrying the thing to the beach I made sure the head was pointing away from me because a few years ago I had a similar experience with a Hawksbill turtle. Thinking I would try not to spook it I carried it backwards with the head pointing towards me. Big mistake. Just before I got to the shoreline its head popped out and he/she (probably a she) gave me an almighty bite in the guts. Now that was very amusing for the guys in the pub watching, the pom got gut bit! Ha bloody ha. But I ended up with a bruise the size of a dinner plate and I was passing blood for the next 4 days. Not very nice, but the turtle lived. So, if ever you have to rescue a turtle, carry it so that the ungrateful buggers cannot give you a friendly nip.