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by Indi Sharer-Nuñez

Every second passing by is a step closer to freedom, a moment nearer to travel the immense sea that lay before their eyes. A path was made for them to follow, a programmed map inside their tiny little heads that will lead them to their next destination. Only a minute out of their shell and they are already on their way, already knowing what they are meant to do in their lives. Flipper by flipper, a newborn Olive Ridley turtle will face the unknown and challenge it as it starts its journey through the sand and into the swaying ocean of waves. And as I watch it swim away with hope and love revolving around my heart and coursing through my veins  I have to make myself remember that this little creature will have a very slim chance at making it in this big, wide world. So why not give it the biggest chance it can get?

DSC_0014_01Turtle  populations are in such a steep decline due to fishing bycatch and egg poaching that multiple species are already considered endangered.  By being a part of PRETOMA, I had the sensation that I was being part of something that helped these incredible animals. PRETOMA is a sea turtle conservation group and hatchery. There, they do their best to try to find mother turtles laying and collect the eggs to put in the hatchery before the nests are poached along the expanse of the Ario beach. The volunteers wait until the eggs hatch and release the beautiful creatures into the ocean. Next they wait for two days before they exhume the nests, which means open the nest up, take out all the unhatched eggs and also any turtles who are trapped. Our CIRENAS group had the chance to experience this last step which was absolutely thrilling. As soon as one of the volunteers picked a teeny turtle out of the nest all of us immediately were delighted. They were so small and delicate, all I wanted to do is hold one in my hands and look at it for hours. Out of the three nests that we exhumed, there were five baby turtles still captured inside. Later that afternoon we had the chance to release them into the deep, blue ocean.

DSC_0343_01While at PRETOMA, we were led by a enthusiastic volunteer named Dani who was in his mid-twenties. A brown scruffy beard covered the lower part of his face and his speech carried a heavy Castilian accent. He wore small black shorts and it was obvious from his weathered appearance that he had been living and working on the beach for quite some time. He was a person who was not involved with turtles in his everyday life but took time out of it and put it into protecting them. You could tell from the way he talked that he was incredibly interested in the turtles and their outcome in life. He allowed us to hold these beautiful creatures in our hands and release them into the tumbling waves. I encountered one of the most marvelous, heart warming feelings as I looked into their beady eyes and took in the movement of their minuscule flippers. He also allowed us to realize that for those five little turtles to be released there was a gigantic amount of work behind it and that it was important to take this into consideration.

DSC_0988A small turtle will dive into the sea without even a hint of hesitation or fear. They will push themselves forward and travel as far as they can go. By watching these incredible turtles we can learn how to find courage in our life. If this tiny creature that fits in the palm of your hand can venture into the endless ocean then why can’t we find bravery in our own life? Next time you feel afraid remember what a small animal like this can achieve and let it be set as an example in your life. Now I look back at my old experiences and can think of them in a different way. I remember visiting a turtle beach when I was younger and all I could think about was how cute they were. Now that I have a better understanding of turtles, their hardships, and their life I have a different perspective. I still think they are incredibly adorable but now I understand how hard it is for one turtle to survive and how deeply strong these creatures really are. This was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had and I would love to give thanks to  CIRENAS and its faculty, PRETOMA , and also to Dani for allowing me and the rest of the group this experience and for caring. Overall though, I would like to thank the turtles for their bravery, hard work, and for never giving up.