How turtles should be enjoyed. Author's son. Photo: bittenbysharks.com
A lesson to be learned about the
power of determination.
It was about two years ago when
the magnitude of the sea turtle situation really hit me. I had always had a
nagging concern for them, and had always been disgusted by the deplorable way
they were treated after capture and prior to slaughter, but two years ago I
realized that we had to do something to protect this fragile species tottering
on the brink of extinction.
The Bahamas Sea Turtle
conservation Group was born one evening at Debbie Krukowski’s home when a bunch
of us gathered together to discuss the recent rash of large turtles being
caught and paraded, lying miserably on their backs, on the side of the road. Of
course this was pure and total extortion tactics. The fishermen who had
captured those large turtles had done so deliberately to cause people such as
us to stop and pay exorbitant sums of money for the release of these animals.
That particular evening there
were perhaps a dozen people gathered. All the people there represented some
animal or conservation group on the island.
The discussion focused on the depleting numbers of turtles globally.
By the end of the evening The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group was
reality. No-body wanted to be chairman, so the best solution was three
co-chairman, who were and still are: Debbie Krukowski (ARK), Jane Mather (Advocated
for Animal Rights) and myself (Bahamas Humane Society). At first the
organization had no money, of course, so everybody there pitched in some
dollars to open a bank account. Within a short period of time we had bumper
stickers out in the community with the intention of drawing attention to
The uphill part of our campaign
was trying to get people to care enough to get involved at first. So few
Bahamians eat quantities of turtles that most people did not feel that turtles
were an issue at all, and as a non-issue, they didn’t care. Gradually with
determination, the cooperation of the press and visiting schools, people began
to listen to the message we were trying to send…..it was plain and clear: All
sea turtles were on their way to extinction….Zip, nada, no more….there would
not be turtles swimming free in the sea for generations to come unless we took
the responsible step to protect then NOW!
The finances started to improve
so we were able to have t-shirts printed; we were delighted when the Sports
Center offered to sell them for us free of charge. What a help that was to get
them out into the communities!
T-shirts and bumper stickers are a wonderful form of advertising because
they are readily displayed for all to see and often (if you get lucky) the
person who is displaying actually paid you for the t-shirt or bumper sticker!
Still, in spite of the advertising, there was not enough momentum.
This is when we started to write articles and get the media
involved. The press was fantastic and extremely interested in all facets of the
“Turtle Issue”. Debbie, Jane and I went to countless radio shows and TV
The Daily Boil with Chrissy
and Eddie, perhaps the funniest, those two together had me laughing from the
Patty Roker, Chrissy Love, Sieska
Adderley, Etoile Pinder, Eddie Carter were all people who interviewed us
repeatedly. I cannot tell you quite how much fun we had on those shows and the camaraderie
that was built up.
Of course during this phase the
three of us, had countless meetings with the Government. Minister Larry Cartwright,
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources was the long-suffering official
who met with us the most often. There were times when it was weekly…Back to the
power of determination. Minister Cartwright was always gracious to the “turtle
ladies” and always found time to meet with us.
We circulated a petition. We
started with the original petition started by others some years ago on line,
however, we became aware that on line petitions did not appear to carry any
real power. We changed the petition around to a paper petition…we asked
Bahamians to write letters to the ministry. So many letters came in that they
had to change the ink in the fax machine twice. The inbox of the Ministry email
address was overflowing…the power of determination. I personally carried in
1000’s of individual letters to the Ministry of Marine resources; I still have
the photocopies of each and every one in the boot of my car!!! Filing cabinet
draws were so full that they would not close!
Yes, it was very disheartening
when on three separate occasions we had been told that we would have a ban. The
first one was due on January 1st, 2009, the second promise was April
1st, 2009, the third was supposedly August 1st, 2009…these
dates came and went and with them a chunk of our optimism did too, but they
fight did not die out and the power of determination remained…
We had an amazing candle light
vigil, with footage of a turtle swimming and feeding on a reef, donated by Troy
Aitkin. Members of the public voiced their support and two perfectly wonderful
"little turtles" performed a skit (Brent Whittingham and Anna
Nixon)...the following week we held a town meeting with Dr. Alan Bolten from
the University of Florida presiding and answering questions.
My painting is the top left, by Melissa Maura.
We were so heartened by the
support of so many people who were convinced that not only would we succeed in
protecting the turtles but that we would do so with an over whelming majority.
This was when we were contacted by Pam Burnside of Dongoolik Gallery to inform
us that they had decided to mount a “turtle” show, inviting each of the artists
they represent to submit a piece of art depicting a turtle in some shape or
form. This was wonderful news, and was yet another way to keep the cause alive
in the public’s mind. We gratefully accepted, and out of that idea was born a
remarkable display by some the finest artists in the Bahamas. I bought a wonderful
small painting by Melissa Maura of a baby turtle in a human hand with the sky
and celestial signs behind it, which is now proudly displayed in my entrance
One other innovative idea was
born out of the art show and that was the remarkable “eat cookies, not turtles”
cookies designed by Sam Moree at “Something Different”. These enchanting
cookies not only spread the word but also tasted delicious. Sam also organized
a cookie painting (all edible) competition for kids one Saturday afternoon.
Whilst all these events took place,
and all the letters were being written, and all the interviews being aired, the
Ministry of Marine resources was conducting town meetings around the islands to
ascertain if the turtle ban was a viable proposal.
Things went very quiet for a
while and we at the Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group decided to increase
the pressure a notch and thanks to a very generous donation were able to take
out weekly full-page ads in the Tribune. These ads were designed to promote
awareness… The day the fourth ad. ran I
received a phone call from Patty Roker asking me if I had seen the press
release…I had not. I promise you that my heart quite honestly skipped a beat,
then, I did what most women would probably do…I cried !!!! For happy and for
The last few days there have been
so many phone calls, email, and face-book messages from well-wishers who are so
happy that the bill was passed. There have been countless requests for
interviews from local and foreign media…but the very best part of all this is
that the turtles can now graze safely in our waters, we can hope to see them
multiply and our grandchildren can count on seeing turtles and showing them to
their own kids.
However, we must remain vigilant.
If we see somebody catching a turtle, the police and the National Trust and the
Bahamas Humane Society should be notified immediately…this is a law, people who
catch or kill turtles or their eggs are punishable by a year in jail and or
$3,000.00 fine. We must no turn a blind eye.
Those of you who gave of yourselves
to achieve this ban should rest well and happy this weekend, knowing that
somewhere today a turtle swims who otherwise may well have been dead. The
success of this campaign proves to us the power of determination!
The author speaking at the opening of the art show at Doongalik.
About the author:
Kim Aranha grew up in the Berry Islands with her first dog, a beloved
potcake named “Friendly” (who was anything but!). First educated at
home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome,
Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up
working as an interpreter. She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and
now lives in Nassau with her husband Paul, and their two teenaged sons.
Kim has 3 dogs, 3 goldfish fish, a beta fish, a tank of freshwater
exotic fish, 11 turtles (2 babies, 6 adolescents. 3 adults), 1 Asian
box turtle and 4 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to
take care of all her pets. Kim is President of the Bahamas Humane
Society, and serves on the board of BREEF, and is co-chairman of the
Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group. Kim can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org