The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

The Sea Turtle and the Megapode

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Alanna Gisonodo shares a story told to her by Joshua Eberdong, a sea turtle expert from Ollei, a small village located in the northern end of Ngarchelong state of Palau.

Joshua telling us the legend of the hawksbill turtle and the megalopode

The legend goes that a woman who lived in a small village near Ollei gave birth to a hawksbill sea turtle and a megapode. Every day, while the woman was away from the house tending to her taro patch duties, the turtle would dig holes and the bird would dig large mounds in the yard and every day, the woman would return from a hard day’s work to find a giant mess awaiting her. One day, the turtle and megapode overheard their mother complaining about all the extra work they caused her, and so decided to find their own place in the world. Early the next morning they went down to the beach and as they sat there, the megapode wondered how they would travel out to the sea. The turtle said to his sibling ‘don’t worry, hop on my back and I will do the swimming.’ So they traveled south where they found an island where the megapode decided to settle down. The turtle said he would continue further south to the Rock Islands. Before they parted ways, the megapode said to the turtle ‘make sure that when it is time for you to have your children, put them up on the sand where they have a greater chance of surviving and I will be able to assist them’. And to this day, that is the behavior of the megapode – it makes its nest in the sand close to Hawksbill nests, where it brings leaves down to the shore for turtle hatchlings to take cover under. Thus wherever there are Hawksbill turtle nests, you can find a megapode nest nearby.

Exploring the island

I thought the legend of the turtle and the megapode was a particularly poignant example of what we had come to Ollei to learn about – traditional ecological knowledge and conservation, and the role those play in modern-day local conservation. Anne Singeo, one of the founders of the Ebill Society, explained to us that “people learn better when there is a story attached to the knowledge,” and that through these traditional legends and stories, valuable ecological knowledge is maintained through generations.


Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

One thought on “The Sea Turtle and the Megapode

  1. Pingback: Sea turtle conservation news update | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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