You could probably walk the outline of Derawan Island in
30-40 minutes or so. But still it was big enough for a small fishing village,
a shipyard, a couple of kiosks, a primary school, a cemetery, a mosque, hens
and ducks and quite a few tailless Japanese bobtail cats.
We had gotten wind of a villager who nursed green sea turtles on a
government grant and wanted to pay him a visit. He collected newborn baby
turtles on the beach, kept them in bowls and tubs and after a while released
them into the vast blue sea.
The green turtle is the second largest of the marine turtle species outgrown
only by the leatherback turtle. It can grow up to more than 1 meter in
carapace size and weigh as much as 180 kg. Although it’s found in all
tropical and sub-tropical oceans, Indonesia is one of only a few countries
where sea turtles hatch all year round.
The survival rate of hatchlings is as low as 0.1% since an average of only
50% of all eggs hatch and then a large number of baby turtles are eaten by
fish and other underwater predators. The number of eggs per clutch as laid
by a female turtle in the still of the night averages slightly in excess of
A survival rate of 0.1% means that none of these may survive at all – indeed,
only one out of 1,000 baby turtles survive the first year. Is this enough to
sustain the species? Some scientists believe that a minimum of 2.5
hatchlings per 1,000 is needed. It seems the green turtle needs all the help
it can get.
When we called on this villager he had three large
plastic bowls containing four, seven and 14 day-old baby turtles. They were
irresistible, and we carefully held some of them in our hands – just for
size – and were really amazed at how soft their tiny flippers were.
A batch of 14 day olds were about to be released during the next couple of
days – after our leaving, of course – and the villager explained that this
simple method resulted in significantly increased survival rates for Baby
One day we took a stroll with Eddi through the village. He pointed out the
house of the local rich man – the only house with real tiles on the porch
and a satellite dish twice the size of everybody else’s. The local football
team was out practicing in the midday sun – all wearing Ronaldo t-shirts.
The local alderman hung out with some other men, and it seemed quite clear
that he was a man everybody wanted to be on good terms with.
I told Eddi I had read somewhere that the primary reason for personal
injuries in Indonesia was coconuts falling from the top of the palm trees.
Eddi laughed his head off and replied that this was certainly news to him.
In that very instant a sizeable coconut whizzed right passed his head and
thumbed to the ground. Eddi screamed like an old woman jumping as high as
his tiny, skinny legs could lift him. Never say never…