Blake Giyomwanauri imagines the loss of the Pig-nosed Turtle

A poem entered in the Mini-Poetry competition for World Environment Day, 2022

“The pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), also known as the pitted-shelled turtle or Fly River turtle, is a species of turtle native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It is the only living member of the family Carettochelyidae, which are related to softshell turtles.” (Wikipedia).

The turtle features on the five-toea coin.

“In Australia, the turtle suffers from habitat loss, but the problem in PNG is different—people eat the turtles and their eggs in large quantities. And so scientists not only surveyed adult turtles and their nests but also looked at turtle and egg sales in the local markets.

They found that female turtles had gotten smaller over the last 30 years; larger turtles were taken for food. In addition, local villagers intensively harvested turtle nests for eggs. And as eggs and turtles became rarer, prices increased in the markets.

“The level of harvest involved is unlikely to be sustainable,” the scientists write. And any management plan cannot be a simple one focused on eliminating hunting. The species will have to be managed more like a fishery. “We need to provide win win outcomes to both local and conservation communities,” the study’s lead author, Carla Eisemberg of the University of Canberra, told BBC News.”

The Decline of the Pig-nosed Turtle, Saving the turtle from extinction could be complicated, scientists find, Smithsonian Magazine, Sarah Zielinski, July 12, 2011
The Decline of the Pig-nosed Turtle
The Pig-nosed Turtle in the Eyes of Yolly

“Yolly, the turtles are here to lay their eggs”
“Ah! Great, just as expected before the rainy season”
“Grab the basket dear, we’re going to have eggs for dinner tonight”
“Wow! There’s so many eggs, this one’s the biggest, this one is mine”
“We’re lucky the Fly River allows for fertile land, when you grow up, even your children will have enough”

“Mama Yolly, why haven’t the turtles come to lay their eggs this month?”
“I’m not sure son, let’s hope they come tomorrow”
“Mama, she’s here, she came up to lay her eggs”
“Go get the basket, let’s have eggs for dinner tonight”
“Okay but just a few, so that when I have kids, they can see them too”

“Grandma Yolly, what’s this on the five toea coin ah?”
“That’s a Pig-nosed turtle, native to our province”
“How comes I’ve never seen one if they’re native to land?”
“Because they are extinct, we eat the eggs, the mine upstream polluted the river and now, they’re all gone”
“I wish I could have seen one Grandma”

BLAKE GIYOMWANAURI is in his final year of Bachelor in Civil Engineering Student at The Papua New Guinea University of Technology, in Lae.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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