There’s a lesson for all of us in this easily overlooked incident.
“It’s amazing. The story I heard was that people who didn’t know whether they would be alive tomorrow helped this animal. At other times these turtles are simply harmed by people,” said Polymnia Nestoridou at the sea turtle rescue centre.
Days later, I do not know where the turtle’s temporary companions are. Mainly Afghans seeking safety, I am also unsure where their journey will take them.
As a young man in Greece, I spent many years working with others to ensure that wildlife achieved the recognition it deserved, to guarantee protection for endangered species and to create protected areas for loggerhead sea turtles, such as the Marine Park of Zakynthos.
Circulars, ministerial decisions and presidential decrees emerged to provide legal and administrative protection for wildlife. Proudly, I watched a dream come true as Greece, the country with the biggest nesting population of sea turtles in the Mediterranean, established a specialised rehabilitation centre.
I saw collaborations with port authorities and airline companies, veterinarians and other specialists. Volunteers from around the world worked together to save the loggerhead. I feel proud to have played a role and believe it was a step forward for humanity, and our country in particular.
I never imagined that one day an injured turtle would have a place on a plane while traumatised people would be left out in the cold, rain and snow, or behind some barbed wire in the midst of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
Today’s reality surpasses my understanding and I imagine it surpasses everyone’s understanding. Some people have fewer rights and opportunities than some animals.
Quote above from Nikos Charalambides, Executive Director of Greenpeace Greece and a member of the Marine Turtles Specialists Group (MTSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).