Terry the Turtle

Since arriving in Tokyo I have got back into running for enjoyment. So a couple of times a week I head over to our local park and take a few turns on the running circuit.

At the moment Japan is still in it’s summer season with the temperatures regularly reaching 30+ in Tokyo. This means I often run at night. It’s amazing how the shadows of the leaves can look like little animals scattering about. I actually went stalking in the long grass the other day convinced I’d seen a baby bat, only to discover it was in fact, a leaf.

So as I took to the circuit again a few days ago in the cooler daytime, I passed what looked like a baby turtle, but of course was going to be a leaf. For a whole 400m I mused about finding a baby turtle and rescuing it in some heroic nature loving scene. As I passed again on lap two, imagine my surprise when the leaf in fact turned out to be a friggin baby turtle!

It was minute, no bigger than a watch face. A tiny little thing that looked very very dead. Still, I decided to try and revive the little mite by scooping him up and splashing water in him. By golly did he come alive! So now I’m standing in my local park (which is nowhere near water) with a tiny but very alive turtle in my hand.

As tortoise owners and therefore shelled backed lovers, I couldn’t leave him to fend for himself. He was very far from water and in a really urban area, so there seemed no real way he could survive. Thus, began a very surreal day which could have ended in some very irresponsible species eradication, but in fact culminated in the rescuing of one of Japan’s unique (and native) freshwater turtles.

Initially we took the little thing to the nearest water we could find. Turns out it was a dirty little pond surrounded by old men fishing and smoking. It didn’t look like Terry, as Dan named it, could possibly survive there. After a few more similiar failed adventures, we recruited a local, who told us about a park that has lots of turtles in it’s ponds. And great news, it was only a 2km walk, 10 minute bus ride, and 20 minute train away. Great, thanks Terry.

On arrival at the new, and much better, park I remembered a story I’d heard about a woman in Japan who removed a problematic crow from her local train station by capturing it and setting it free a few hours away. She was arrested and sent to prison for interfering with a wild animal. Suddenly the release of Terry took a darker and more stealth turn. We needed to be covert, but immediately failed as it must have been so obvious we had something alive in a box a lady stopped us as she passed and asked to see in. Dammit Terry!

After a few laps of the park we realised we couldn’t be too irresponsible and just release Terry without checking the environment was right. A quick google revealed it was and then we hit the jackpot. We found a poster with a little picture of Terry on it! It was attached to an information board about the lake and finally we felt happy that we were doing the right thing and not introducing a dangerous species into a new environment. Wins for us, wins for Terry.

The adventure of a surreal day was concluded with me sneaking over a fence to the waters edge and popping Terry down on a small rock. He looked at me and with a wink, did absolutely nothing whatsoever. I hope he’s moved since then, but there are no guarantees. That evening we had a beer, toasting the little Terry that was very briefly our pet in Tokyo.

We did our best with Terry, helped out nature, and got some really cute pictures. What a weird day.

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