Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Memoirs of an Intern!

The last few days of my six month internship feels somewhat surreal! It is difficult to believe I am approaching the end of what originally sounded like such a long time period! It feels like I’ve been here forever and am old furniture, yet it also feels like it went too quickly.

During the first half of the internship, as a volunteer, I settled in quickly, awakening to the sounds of the howler monkeys, enjoying the sounds of the jungle music, meeting people from all walks of life (and finding life-long friends), participating in surveys, learning species and gaining the ability to cook for around thirty people! Living in the middle of the rainforest really awakened my senses! Waking up to the sounds of the rainforest on one side and the sound of the ocean on the other is a very unique experience!

The second half of the internship continued, but my role changed from volunteer to staff member. I was amazed at the realization of my knowledge of species and feel proud to have gained such first-hand knowledge of a specific ecosystem. Learning solely from textbooks is nowhere near as much fun! It is great to lead surveys and to pass your knowledge on to new volunteers.

It is difficult to pick out a favourite memory from this experience, as there are so many. Was it the time I saw a jaguar lying majestically on a log, or when I saw a jaguar feasting on a turtle? Was it when I first encountered a great, ancient leatherback turtle, or when I counted the laying eggs and tagged the sweetest sounding green turtle in the world? Was it simply sat on the staff porch watching small birds, including delightfully coloured hummingbirds, fluttering in and out of the trees?

I think a memory which is extra special to me happened only yesterday. Gemma (a great friend of mine and a fellow intern) and I were doing nest check, which is a daily survey on the beach to check that all the turtle nests from our collected data are not destroyed, eroded, washed, poached or predated. After the turtle has laid the eggs, the nests get excavated approximately two months later, so we can determine the hatching success. So, we were following the nest check routine, when I noticed a green turtle lying on its back in the vegetation. At first I assumed that this turtle had fallen victim to a jaguar, but as I got closer I realized that it had no wounds and saw that it was actually still breathing. I shouted out to Gemma, who instantly came running over, and much to our disgust we both realized that a poacher had flipped the turtle over in preparation to tie her up and take her. Gemma even spotted loads of abandoned ropes next to the sea, which we imagine were planted there as an indicator to the poachers of where the turtle was, as they were apparently scared off by the rangers. It took so much effort to flip the turtle over due to its sheer weight, and much to our delight, after the turtle took a breather from her appalling ordeal, she laid one hundred and thirty eight eggs! We watched this special creature return to sea and the feeling that we had properly saved her life and prevented the poachers from performing their cruel lifestyle choice was overwhelming! Now all we hope for is that the turtle’s future generation will flourish!

So, I say farewell to the base here at Jalova and to all my close friends who I’ve lived with . . . . . and to the ones that live in the depths of the jungle!

By Jenny Smith.