Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sea Turtles in Hiwasa

While I like sea turtles, I have never been overly fascinated by them. They are interesting, but sea turtles are (as the name suggests) ocean-dwelling creatures. I’ve never been keen on oceans, what with oceans being so full of water.

Display showing five of the eight different types of sea turtle.
However, I am fascinated by the amazing story of the sea turtles’ lives: the mothers coming ashore to lay their eggs and the treacherous journey the hatchlings take back to the ocean. Sea turtles are graceful swimmers, and a delight to watch, from what I can remember from my terrified snorkelling attempt several years ago. Most vividly to me, though, they represent the ocean.

With these visions swimming in my brain, I arrived at the Sea Turtle Museum in Hiwasa, a town on the coast just south of Tokushima City. My co-worker Ikue took David and I out for a day of fun and learning.

We walked through the museum backwards, which means that we started our journey with the “What did you learn?” quiz. A score of 70% or higher awards a Doctor of Turtles certificate. A combined effort got us a score of 50%. For not yet having read the exhibit telling us how fast turtles can swim, I guess we did okay.

Ohama Beach
The museum overlooks a beach, a place where turtles come to shore every summer to lay their eggs. Today it is empty, but I imagine it full of loggerhead sea turtles. Turning around from the beach view, one faces the museum’s breeding tanks, filled with young turtles.

Out behind the main museum are more pools, both for sea turtles and non-sea turtles. The turtles are bigger than I anticipated: Inside an aquarium was a large, no - huge - turtle. It was utterly massive. I would love to show him (her?) to you. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that one, because of - um - the shadows - yeah, that’s it. And the small windows and angle of where it was resting. Yeah, that’s why. It’s not because this gigantic turtle was in an aquarium with a tunnel of water above my head and turtles swimming over me, and me freaking out.

Once back outside in the sunlight and breathing easy, I grabbed my camera and took a truly preposterous number of photos. Luckily (for you), many did not turn out because the turtles were underwater or swimming or both.

Apparently, turtle food is usually available for people to dole out.
There wasn't any when we were there, but the turtles didn't know that.
Sea turtles are amazing animals. Whenever I see them, I am reminded how fragile our earth is. I am glad there is a museum like this - hopefully it will teach people to be more mindful of our oceans, to be careful how we treat the planet. Maybe the kids who visit here and have their pictures taken while sitting on the model (don’t worry, they don’t climb on a real turtle)  will one day grow up to be conservationists. Maybe they will remember the tunnel in the aquarium and say, “I am going to make sure my children have a chance to see turtles swimming over their heads, too. But in the ocean.”

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