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Columns : The Pet Pages - Kim Aranha Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Turtle Week in Nassau
By Kim Aranha
Jun 10, 2009 - 9:49:23 PM

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Anna Nixon and Brent Whittingham as turtles

The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group had a marathon 72 hours starting on Monday June 8th through until late on Wednesday June 10th. The kick off event was a lively interview with Kim Aranha and Jane Mather (two of the three co chairmen of The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group:  Debbie Krukowski being the third co-chairman), on the “Daily Boil” with Chrissy Love…There was a lot of serious talk laced with laughter and light banter. However the bottom line was very serious…Turtle week had started and The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group had various events planned to enlighten the country as to why we MUST stop the slaughter of sea turtles in this island nation of ours.

On the evening of Monday June 8th, in spite of heavy ran almost all day, a few minutes before 7:00pm the clouds parted to show a blue sky with a strong presence of “brother sun”. The light was vibrant over Rawson Square as people gather to celebrate a candlelight vigil in honour of the sea turtles that swim through the waters of our little country of islands. The House was in session and a few of the politicians showed an interest in what we were doing and took the time to come over.

Two very special children, both students of the Meridian School, put on a simply wonderful skit depicting two young turtles and their impassioned plea to be allowed to grow up into healthy big turtles. These two young stars were Anna Nixon, nine, (daughter of Ricky and Joanna Nixon) and Brent Whittingham, seven, (son of Robert & Carla Whittingham). What a great performance they put on! They were clearly spoken, unwavering and composed. They stood before the crowd and spoke their lines like the real pros that they are. Their message was easy to read and spoke volumes for the cause that they were representing.  It was very moving to see two such young citizens of the Bahamas supporting their right to a healthy and rich environment.

Dr. Alan Bolten of the University of Florida flew into the Bahamas on Tuesday to join The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group in their endeavors, and, to lend a purely scientific side to the reasons as to why we MUST protect the sea turtles. The group enjoyed a private evening in discussion with various key people.

Wednesday morning saw them all at the studio at Jones Communications to prepare a TV show with Etoile Pinder. Etoile interviewed everybody with her standard trademark enthusiasm: bubbling with questions and speculation.

Before lunch the group were fortunate enough to have a meeting with the Minister of Marine Resources the Hon. Larry Cartwright. The Minister listened intently and with interest to the reasons put forward by Dr. Bolten as to why the Bahamas must absolutely pass this Turtle protection act if we wish to still see turtles swimming in our sea eighty years from now.

The highlight of this busy week was undoubtedly the presentation given by Dr. Bolton on Wednesday evening at the College of the Bahamas. It was a town meeting, open to one and all. Those who were against were welcome to attend and share their opinions, however they chose to stay away. It was a quite well attended event with many very interested persons present, but it could have been better attended.  Dr. Bolten showed the group a series of very interesting photographs and graphs. The lecture was followed by a lengthy question and answer period. The questions ranged from the benefits of Eco tourism to the viability of turtle farming in the Bahama Islands. Well thought out questions that provided the audience with even more to think about than they expected.

An interested crowd gathers in Rawson Sq, Nassau

He explained how the Green Turtle eats the grass on the bottom of the seabed, and by doing so keeps it short and healthy for the baby conch and baby groupers to flourish and grow. Did you know that the health and success of the conch is greatly enhanced by the Green Turtle’s keeping the sea grass beds clean and healthy?

He explained how the Hawksbill Turtle eats sponges off the reefs and by doing so makes space on the crowded reef for more corals to grow. If the Hawksbill did not do this, there would be less coral in the reefs because they would be overcome by the fast growing sponges.  Did you know that a healthy reef depends on the Hawksbill turtles ministrations to remain healthy?

He told us that all adolescent turtles eat jellyfish; in fact it is one of their favourite foods. Dr. Bolten told us that the closest thing he has ever come to seeing a turtle smile was seeing one surrounded by jellyfish and was having himself a feast completely oblivious to the stinging tentacles all around and on him.
We learnt how the green turtle is down 95% in population; we learnt that if we continue to kill sea turtles there will not be any more turtles in a hundred years time. We learnt how the sea turtle has been swimming on this planet for 60 million years, and is now faced with the real possibility of EXTINCTION…. It made me kind of embarrassed to be a human. We saw a graph of how many sea turtles there were in 1927 and where they are now on the same graph. To see how much damage man has been able to do in less that one hundred years was humbling in the worst possible way. This is surely not what God intended when he made us the “intelligent” species and gave us custody of this beautiful world he created for us. He could not have intended for us to go out and so thoughtlessly and wantonly destroy it.

Dr. Bolten presented his case in a pure scientific manner. He did not discuss the perils of our children not seeing live turtles; he stated the cold and clear facts. He showed us, over and over again proof that we must react before it is too late.

Some people claim that there are more turtles that before, when presented with this argument Dr. Bolten used a painfully easy way to explain this erroneous perception that there are more turtles today. He explained that if you have a hundred turtles and a hundred good, rich feeding areas for them to go, then you may see one turtle. If you have a hundred turtles with only ten places to go you may see ten turtles, but that does not mean that there are more turtles. 78% of all Caribbean nations have passed Turtle protection acts, however for many of them it has been too late to repair the damage down by “progress” to the feeding grounds, often torn apart by shrimping nets, so the poor trusting sea turtle comes to our pristine islands, still rich with food and when they get here…..WE KILL THEM !!!

To be seated in the audience of the Town meeting on Wednesday and listen to one of the worlds leading experts on Sea Turtles, a man who has been researching in the Bahamas for over 30 years, so much information and so much to learn, it was a simply wonderful opportunity: Alas not enough people took advantage of this golden opportunity, but those that did, went away with a far greater understanding of how things should be and how big the overall picture is. When the cycle of life is clearly put in front of you, it makes you realize that even the smallest micro-organism has an intentional role on this planet. Nothing has been placed on this Earth by accident. It is like an enormous dominoes chain.

The issue goes far beyond the eating of turtle meat, these creatures are the custodians of the underwater gardens where conch, juvenile grouper and other precious marine resources lurk and grow into larger and more viable animals. If we upset the balance of nature, as it has been for hundreds of thousands, no, millions of years, we cause irrevocable damage.

To those of you who missed these events, or perhaps thought that they were not important enough for you to bother with, you missed a great opportunity to learn something from one of the world’s experts. You missed an opportunity to have a say in something that will have a lasting effect on the world in years to come……

To put it plainly:  YOU CLEARLY MISSED THE BOAT !!!

Anna and Brent perform!

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. Kim can be contacted at berryislandgirl@gmail.com

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