By Laura McMahon: Oregon State University student and IE3 Summer 2010 Scholarship Recipient interning with Sea Turtles 911 in China
I’m Laura McMahon, a senior in Fisheries and Wildlife Science at Oregon State University. I am interning with Sea Turtles 911, a non profit organization working to save sea turtles in the South China Sea around Hainan Island. I feel as if I have adapted to life in China quickly, even without knowing the language. I have gotten the chance to experience a way of life many never have the opportunity to experience. The floating village is filled with people practicing their traditional ways of life, while at the same time, there are some modern technologies that have been mixed in. It’s strange how two worlds can collide and yet seem to work perfectly. The other day a couple young boys used their traditional boat to row to our floating hospital for help changing a new cell phone’s language setting from English to Chinese.
Lately, we have been busy rehabbing 3 turtles we rescued from a fisherman who no longer had use for them. He couldn’t sell them because of their poor condition. We were called to visit this fisherman at his home in the floating village, where he let us take 6 of his turtles. We found these sick turtles either in dry buckets or floating in their enclosures, it was hard to see animals in that condition, but it also felt good to lend a hand. Our sea turtle hospital transformed into something that I imagine to be similar to a hectic army hospital. We administered fluids and cleaned them, all while hoping they would make it through the night. Sadly, by the end of the week, we were only able to save 3 of the six. During the first week, the turtles were not strong enough to lift their heads above water, which resulted in each turtle resting on a life jacket with a wet towel on their backs to keep them wet. It’s a sad sight to see sea turtles that are not strong enough to even pick their heads out of the water, but during their second week, they were able to float and lift their heads. Their recovery has been slow, but they have been making progress. Over the last couple weeks, they have progressed, so far! They can eat on their own and are capable of swimming! I can’t wait to one day be able to release them back into the wild where they belong.
For so long, I have dreamed of going on an adventure of a lifetime, and living in China has been just that. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been; in five weeks, I have had the opportunity to do things I never thought I would get the chance to do. I have been able to rescue sea turtles, ride taxi boats and rickshaws, swim with whale sharks, meet locals, and teach others about sea turtle conservation. I am half way through my time here, and it has been great experience so far. I can’t wait to find out what the other half of my internship will include!