10 August 2009
Ah-Po, the farmer lady next door, broke the terrible news: a turtle has been kidnapped!
A small colony of turtles lives somewhere out in the ginger field. Occasionally one or two of them appear in our lotus pond or lumber around our front garden. The most we've seen at one time is three. They're normal pond turtles, with shells around 9 inches long. No one knows whether they're native or, more likely, descendants of someone's abandoned pets. After all, Mr. Tang on the other side of the village used to have an enormous lotus and lily pond stocked with turtles before he covered it up with a lawn. I suspect those turtles used to be his. Whatever their origin, they seem quite content.
Ah-Po says they've been regular visitors to her farm for years. Rather than worrying about them grabbing a free dinner from her lettuce patch, she's genuinely fond of them. She claims she recognizes each of them by their shell color and pattern.
We were alarmed when she told my wife the news. Her son had been walking on the public footpath next to the Wang Tong Stream. Down below him someone lifted a turtle out of the water and ran off with it. He's a bit shy and wasn't sure how to confront the person. He claimed to recognize that turtle.
It must have swam down the little tributary which passes through our garden and Ah-Po's field into the main stream. Two other turtles were inside her farm. She immediately picked them up and placed them in the sanctuary of our lotus pond, hoping they would rather hang out there than follow their ill-fated relative.
What would happen to the unfortunate hostage? Was it about to become soup? No, Ah-Po said. The person who took it lives in the area, though not in our village. They probably wanted the turtle as a pet.
Outwardly Ah-Po laughed it off. But we could tell by her quick rescue actions that she's quite affectionate to the wild friends who occasionally drop in on her down on the farm. I wonder if turtles feel the same way about each other. Or get lonely.