You know what they say about the popping of ideas during oddest hours of time in an unexpected way. Well, to begin with, this idea made its debut in a tea stall by a group of four youth discussing the multiple approaches to aid in conservation.
It is said that by increasing a person’s level of relaxation, more creative ideas are generated and tea is by far the highest mode of relaxation we could get. Partly thanks to it. However, the affinity towards work we were engaged in and the needs of the situation was always the top contributing factor.
During the month of May, we came up with the idea of building an incubating machine on our own. Our long involvement with Turtle Rescue and Conservation Centre as TRCC-Turtle’s Club had helped us gain experiences with the conservation work on turtles. Successful hatching seemed to be the greatest complication and thus the need for something that would facilitate this process was felt.
Heeding into the literature only gave an insight into the incubating process maintained in a well-built sophisticated incubating machine. Not the thing we had quite been looking for, to begin with. Next, we did internet research and came out of this not so fanciful, simply designed, and portable design. The initial thought was that the prototype we aimed to build need not be a successful one but at least an experimental model.
The idea was quickly shared with Mr. Tapil Prakash Rai, Lead Keeper, and Representative of Turtle Rescue and Conservation Centre-TRCC (ARCO-Nepal and SUMMEF) who wholeheartedly agreed to support us with whatever needed. But gathering things amidst lockdown was not easy. The shops would open at a specific time, and even as such, only those who sold food items could be accessed.
The items we were looking for included an electrical heater and an aquarium pump. One of our team members, Saroj Chauhan arranged those materials through phone contact with the owner of an aquarium shop. The body of our machine involved the use of Styrofoam (one that is locally used by sellers to store fish) managed by Bigyan Kharel.
The idea behind the use of Styrofoam was to take advantage of its insulating property, so as little heat would get out during the process. Each corner, both in and out, was sealed using plastic sheets to avoid any leakage of water and an aluminum foil was additionally used as bedding of the box. There it was a prepared model of incubating machine. It was later handed over to the office of Turtle Rescue and Conservation Center for the trial phase.
Months after the submission, the machine still lied unused due to the unavailability of eggs we intended to experiment with. We could have tried it with chicken eggs, as suggested by many, but to the extent we knew, the chicken eggs needed constant rolling contrary to what happens with the eggs of reptiles.
It is a general understanding that the reptiles eggs do not respond well to development when rolled or turned. Besides, there was no rolling mechanism intended, and achieving it manually would have been more tedious. We waited patiently until Lead Keeper of TRCC provided us with the mystery eggs of reptile so as to conduct our experiment. In fact, those eggs were found by some people in a heap of straw and assumed it to be of a venomous snake and wanted to destroy it. Fortuitously the information was received and the eggs were rescued promptly.
With the previous setup already in place, two equally cut Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes were laid to fix the box on which the eggs were placed. The box was filled with sieved sand upon which three eggs were put. The temperature was maintained at 30° C. It is with no surprise that we were thrilled with the experiment. It was the first time the machine was put to test, and any results coming within would further enlighten to what should be improved. The farthest extent of our hope was to at least find some sign of embryonic development within the eggs.
But a casual check-up one day left us in awe when we found a neonate of a Buff-striped keelback (Amphiesma stolatum) ‘Harhare’ in Nepali, lurking around the box.
It must have been a lucky watch considering the fact that two of them were recently hatched whiles the other one was still trying to get out. The third was successfully hatched the next day. What a joyous day it had been!
This is a part of the experiment we ran in the conservation center. The efficiency of the machine has been finally tested and hopefully more can be achieved in the coming future. Apart from this, TRCC-Turtle’s Club is continuously working to disseminate knowledge on turtles, rescuing from threats, and performing scientific studies. It has served its purpose as a platform of youths to engage in conservation of turtles and look forward to engaging/involve more youths with similar interests to come be a part of this conservation journey.