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Riding leatherbacks an illegal act

The turtle-nesting season has recently begun and various local environmental groups are currently striving to prepare for our reptilian guests by ridding our beaches from all rubbish and other impediments. Not only that, they want to educate, re-educate and remind those who wish to visit our leathery friends in their natural habitats on how to be gracious hosts.
There’s one problem that keeps cropping up, time and time again, and there are numerous Facebook and Twitter photos that prove it. (Sadly those are just the pictures that make it onto the Internet). You see, while we may see a beautiful creature in all its splendour and feel a sense of honour as it comes to our shores, to others, there appears a magical riding animal awaiting mounting.
Why some people feel the need to haul their backsides on the backs of majestic (endangered as well, I might add) creatures such as leatherbacks, I will never know. A turtle is not, by the furthest stretch of the imagination, a beast of burden. Nor are they some kind of mechanical rodeo bull (or horse) where the winner is he who holds on the longest. Flesh and blood, nerve endings and pain receptors, perhaps even feelings and emotions, are all under that shell.
Perhaps my being an animal enthusiast has skewed my opinion somewhat. It’s possible that the excitement of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to straddle a giant, pregnant turtle, labouring through the sand (almost painfully, it seems) is lost on me.
Maybe it’s time for the Empe­ror Valley Zoo to develop a “petting zoo within the zoo” programme to fulfil whatever emp­ti-
­ness people feel inside that causes them to molest such ama­zing wild animals, meant only for observation and admiration.
One thing is for sure though, it is not only illegal to wound, kill or capture but to molest by any method (under the Conser­vation of the Wildlife Act).
If one doesn’t care about law, then good grief, man! At least fix your broken moral compass and abide by the universal maxim: do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Imagine someone or something standing, sitting or riding you while you are in labour.
Talib Mohammed
El Socorro
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