My Singapore turtle encounter
Conservation is different in every country. In Canada, for example, we have land protected at the national, provincial and municipal level, as well as privately through organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
But what do you do if your country is an island? What if that island is geographically the same area as the city of Calgary and is home to 5.4 million people, making it the second densest sovereign nation in the world after Monaco? Is conservation even possible?
On my trip to Singapore this past February, I discovered it is. Despite being largely urban, I managed to have a close encounter with a turtle in MacRitchie Reservoir Park, a small part of the 7,117-acre (2,880-hectare) swath of primary forest protected as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Here we saw many birds, lizards, a family of monkeys and a red-eared slider.
Walking along the pathway in the middle of a hot and humid afternoon, we happened upon a turtle sitting by a tree. As we got closer we realized this turtle wasn’t relaxing by basking in the warm sun; it was doing something. When we paused to watch it for a while, we realized this turtle was burying her newly laid eggs in a hole she had dug between the roots of this tree!
It was amazing to watch her spend a great deal of time and care ensuring her babies were protected in their new underground home. We watched her for what must have been half an hour, until finally she slowly shuffled away across the grass into the reservoir. With the amount of care she put in while we watched, it was easy to imagine the entire process taking this mother over an hour, and we felt very lucky to have seen the event!
Despite being largely urban, the city-state of Singapore is an Asian leader in conservation, highlighted by this reserve and three others that exist in the small country. It is from these natural places that this island surrounded by ocean gets it fresh drinking water, and it’s a natural paradise where Singaporean people and visitors can escape the urban jungle and have close encounters with nature. For me, it gave me an opportunity to have my first encounter with a mother turtle laying her eggs, something that I will never forget.
If one of the smallest, densest states can succeed at conservation, anyone can.