A Baby Surprise
As the day for returning the borrowed tortoise PIT tag scanner loomed closer, the number of tortoise tickles appearing on the schedule blackboard seemed to grow exponentially. With only 15 tortoises left to find, and each tortoise tickle returning only one or sometimes no new tortoises, my thoughts turned with nostalgia to the experience of tortoise tickles from my early days on Curieuse Island: they now seemed laughably easy.
Nevertheless, with our last chance to use the scanner before its return, we set out on our last tortoise tickle with renewed determination. Nobody wanted to return from their last Curieuse survey empty-handed. Our destination: the Ranger’s station; where 4 resident tortoises had so far remained elusive to our efforts. However, following an hour of fruitless searching and several false alarms, our previous enthusiasm was starting to fade fast. With one hour left, our search moved to the dense palm forest on the hill behind the ranger’s station, where science-officer James had hopes for finding tortoise number 94.
It was there that something happened which turned a non-descript tortoise tickle into one of my best days on the island. I was standing by a rock formation, glancing around rather feebly for any tortoise signs, when I saw it. Sitting right beside me was a perfect, beautiful, baby giant tortoise. It took me a second to take in what was in front of me. Moments later, this innocent little tortoise which had been so peacefully minding its own business was being carefully passed from one awed volunteer to the next. Everyone had the same grin on their faces: day made.
As this baby tortoise was so small (measuring 11.2cm in length) it was agreed that it would be best to take it to the nursery by the ranger’s station where it could grow without risk of predation from rats and other predators. With my rucksack now filled with leaves and a very precious tortoise, I carefully descended back down the hill, feeling rather like a mother kangaroo with a baby in its pouch. Having measured the tortoise, marked its marginals in pen with a unique identifying pattern, and taken a last few selfies with this new addition to the nursery, the time came to say goodbye. We returned to base with high spirits, happy with the knowledge that although tortoise no. 94 had once more slipped our grasp, we had contributed to securing the safety of the future Aldabra giant tortoise population on Curieuse.
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