Brace yourself, because this story starts out sweet and gets even sweeter. Eight months ago, Elias Pereira, 17, was walking down a beach in Trinidad. With his mom. (See, the sweet part started already!) There wasn’t really anyone else around, and as they were walking, they came across a weird body of water.
“On this beach, there is a river that usually flows into the ocean” Pereira wrote, on imgur (where you can see more pictures, too), “but due to a recent storm, it had been blocked off.” Instead, at the end of the river, there was what Pereira calls “a lake type of thing.” And in this “lake type of thing,” there was a sea turtle.
Now, if you’ve ever seen a sea turtle in real life, you know that they’re big. And awesome, in the most technical sense of the word. They’re like living dinosaurs. They drag themselves onto the beach and dig holes in which they lay eggs, then slowly turn back towards the water — they know which direction to go because, with the moon glinting off the water, it’s the direction that, in the absence of people, is less dark.
But this turtle, who had already laid her eggs, had gotten confused and ended up in this blocked-off lake. She didn’t know which way to go.
So Pereira decided to help her out.
“In order to get her to move you have to stand in her way so she turns and goes in the opposite direction,” he wrote. “They are very strong creatures, and she was pushing very hard against my shin.”
It worked. She turned around. She made her way back into the ocean.
And it made all the difference. As Pereira told the Huffington Post, he “spoke to a turtle conservationist later that day who told him that the leatherback would have died in the river had he not rescued it.”
Also, he wants to be a marine biologist. Good start!
How I saved the life of a leatherback sea turtle, Imgur.
Get Grist in your inbox