It’s Not Always What it Seems

Picture this:  You and friends are sipping drinks at a table by a hotel pool on the beach.  Several other tables are also filled with quietly chatting folks when a local guy walks up from the beach with a machete in one hand and a small sea turtle in the other.  He flips the turtle onto its back and raises the machete.

What the what???

What the what???

Mary cowers in terror, as several of us run over to tell the guy not to do this in front of everyone like this.  You hate that endangered animals are eaten, but you wish at least they would do the butchering out back somewhere.  But before you get to the guy he gently taps the machete against a growth on the underbelly of the turtle.  It’s a barnacle.  He knocks it off and then repeats it for a bunch of barnacles on this poor turtle.

Barnacle belly

Barnacle belly

By this time the turtle has stopped flapping for its life and is calm.  He has either given up or knows somehow he is not in danger.  The guy painstakingly knocks barnacles off the underside, shell, legs even the head of the turtle.  It’s amazing what these guys can do with a machete.  He even very gently pries one off its eyelid!  20140305_134945By this time we realize he is not some turtle butcher with no social graces.  He is a kind of Tortuga whisperer.  When he has all the barnacles off, we all, including Lucy, follow him back to the ocean to watch the turtle swim away newly unencumbered by the little parasites. 20140305_140055

Good luck buddy

Good luck buddy


The hero

The turtle hero has zero English and his Spanish is different and incomprehensible to us.  So we are only able to communicate our wonder and appreciation for this bit of kindness in a world where people are often so indifferent to animal suffering with smiles and cheers.

7 thoughts on “It’s Not Always What it Seems

  1. Pingback: Bienvenido a El Salvador | Sailing on Neko

  2. Amazing, fascinating and touching. We are inclined to believe the worst, aren’t we, especially in a strange country and with someone speaking a language we don’t understand? But that doesn’t make the evil, or even sinister. Thanks.

  3. This was a reaffirmation that first impressions can be wrong. Thanks for the story and I love the pix of Lucy & the turtle! Precious.

  4. This is a story of good intention, but I have read from turtle rescue society posting that using mechanical force to remove live barnacles can injure turtles ‘ shells, and be especially harmful to their soft tissue. It is much more time consuming, but if you capture the turtle and put it in fresh water for a couple days the barnacle will die and be much easier to remove. Two days of fresh water supposedly doesn’t hurt the turtle.

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