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Turtle Stories of the Amrita Nature Sanctuary for Native Wildlife - Part I
A few miles from the Amritapuri ashram, adjacent to the school Amma attended as a child, is the Amrita Nature Sanctuary and Organic Garden. The Nature Sanctuary is a large area dedicated to providing a biologically diverse habitat for wildlife and native fauna, growing medicinal and sacred trees, Ayurvedic herbs, flowers, and organic fruits and vegetables.

In 2015, a special discovery was made which helped shape the vision of creating a nature sanctuary where native wildlife could thrive.

Baby turtle fresh from the egg
Baby turtle fresh from the egg
While digging holes to plant trees, two eggs were found buried in the soil. We gathered around, unsure of what kind of eggs we had found and worried as they had been slightly cracked. As we held them, two tiny turtles started to emerge one after the other.

We were very excited to see the turtles, although a bit apprehensive that we had disturbed them and they hatched too early. We immediately brought the small turtles to Amma within an hour of them being born.

Amma was overjoyed seeing the new born turtles and affectionately held them and let them crawl on her. She innocently asked us some questions about what they liked to eat but we had no idea. We told Amma that we were worried they had hatched prematurely. Amma responded confidently,

"Amma knows these turtles very well. Do not worry, they will be fine in a few days. You should keep looking as there could be one hundred more of them!"

We were shocked as we had never seen any turtles in the garden before.

We didn’t know if we should put the newborn turtles back where we found them or try to take care of them, so after a few days we went to Amma again. Amma said to keep them in a tub of water with water plants and rocks and explained how to care for them.

Recently some children in the ashram also found some baby turtles and I was surprised to hear Amma give them some very different advice. Speaking to the children, Amma said to return the babies to where they were found and that the mother would be looking for them.

Turtles and other reptiles are not known to care for their young in the traditional way, yet ancient Vedic tradition states that mother turtles are able to cause their newborns to hatch merely by the power of their loving thought. Amma of course, understanding the hearts of all creatures, could sense the Mother’s concern for her young.

The garden at Amma Center of New Mexico
The two baby turtles

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Reflecting back to five years ago, I realized that Amma must have had the intention of helping us develop a close bond with the turtles by telling us to care for them at that time. Following Amma’s instructions, we set up to take care of the newborn turtles. One turtle did not live many days but the other was healthy, energetic and inquisitive. He was named Kurma, the Sanskrit name for turtle.

One couple who was caring for Kurma after a few months took him to Amma’s room when they had their private room Darshan. Amma was delighted to see Kurma and spent a long time feeding him various foods and mentioned that she wished he had someone to share his heart with. A very lucky turtle to spend time with Amma in her room and receive his third darshan!

Soon after, Kurma was released into a pond in the Nature Sanctuary Garden. For a few weeks no one had spotted him, and so we figured as he had been set free, we would not be seeing him again. Out of curiosity one day, I decided to sit at the edge of the pond and started calling his name and telling him that I would like to see him. Kurma slowly poked his head up from the thick covering of hyacinth flowers covering the pond.

He soon came to me and ate his favorite snacks from my hands. This continued for a few days. Following his lead a few wild, young turtles started to join him. Seeing Kurma’s bold behavior, crawling into our laps and eating from our hands, the others slowly lost their shyness and also ate from our hands. Kurma had definitely found others to share his heart with!

Kurma
Kurma

Over time more and more turtles would join the occasional snack time. We slowly started spotting wild turtles all over the sanctuary and would gradually gain their confidence and start to feed them from our hands and pet them.

Just as Amma has said, there were at least 100 turtles that had found a safe and protected habit in the Nature Sanctuary. .

Sarvaga - Amritapuri, India

More to come...

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