One of the beautiful things of living on Pulau Pef is the fact that we are so close to nature. There is only the resort and the jungle with all its animals on this island. And with the traditional Papuan style bungalows, you hear and feel nature, because it’s all around you. When I first got here, this took some getting used to as I didn’t have to deal with frogs in my bathroom before and wasn’t accustomed to seeing lizards cross the path in front of my eyes. But now I’m used to being surrounded by wildlife and even miss it when I’m not on the island.
I knew that Mother Nature can be merciless, especially since I witnessed the newborn turtles a few years ago in Australia fighting their way across the beach to reach the sea, only to be eaten right away by the sharks and the seagulls awaiting them. It seems cruel, but it’s the circle of life, and as much as I wanted to protect the cute little babies, I knew they were food for other animals. And that this was the way it was meant to be.
Lately, we’ve been lucky to have various baby animals here on Pulau Pef.
First, it was the turn of our «pets», the Sugar Gliders. They are cute nocturnal marsupials that we rescued in Sorong from a life of containment in a small cage. Now, they live in a big enclosure here on the island and it’s my job to feed them every night. Since I came here, they’ve had babies 3 times already, the last time approx. 2 months ago. First, I found two little ones in the tree log they usually all sleep in. A couple of weeks later, suddenly there were another 2 babies in there. And then, about 10 days ago, they were gone. I don’t know what happened to them, but I imagine the adults ate them, maybe to make sure the population doesn’t grow too fast as they are 8 grown ups already in the cage.
Then, there were the turtles. Shortly before the resort closed, one of our dive guides found some turtle eggs on an uninhabited island that were being eaten by Monitor Lizards. He decided to bring them to Pef and bury them in the sand. As we have many young Blacktip Reef Sharks in the lagoon in front of the resort, we didn’t release the turtles after they hatched, but decided to keep them in a basin and take care of them until they are big enough to be released in the water without immediately being eaten by the sharks. Most of them are still doing fine, but some have died, especially the smaller ones that seemed weaker. I know you may say we shouldn’t interfere with nature, but instead of leaving all the eggs to the Monitor Lizards, we are simply trying to help some of the turtles survive. They will still face a lot of dangers once they get in the water.
Last Sunday, I witnessed what seemed an especially cruel act of nature. Four weeks ago, our two Raja Ampat Ducks had 11 ducklings again. This time, they lasted for a lot longer than last time, when all of the ducklings were gone after just 3 days. Last Saturday, they were still 6 of them, but we found one limping and unable to walk properly which is why its family left it behind. As it otherwise seemed rather fit, we put it in a cardboard box to protect it from the Monitor Lizards and fed it. On Saturday, it really seemed to do quite ok, but on Sunday morning it couldn’t get up on its feet anymore. I thought it was going to die very quickly because it didn’t want to eat nor drink anymore, so I took it to my room to give it some comfort during its last moments. I know you’ll say it’s a wild animal, don’t treat it like a pet! But it just seemed so lost and lonely, I couldn’t resist… It took much longer for the little duckling to die than I expected and I was constantly torn between throwing it in the water to the sharks to hopefully allow it a quick death and waiting for its natural death to come, because I wasn’t sure if being eaten by a shark was really a very quick death. So, I chose to wait and only threw it in the water after it stopped breathing a few hours later.
I know that nature has provided for a perfect circle of life which only gets messed up once human beings start interfering. But to try and reduce suffering a little bit can’t be that wrong, can it? I don’t know if the little duckling felt comfortable with me last Sunday, but I like to think it did. It would give ME comfort to know that it wasn’t feeling so lonely – even if this is very human thinking. But I guess I would probably do it again if I had the chance.
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…