At about 2:45 p.m. on April 18, a group of Buddhists came to Lake Murray to release four pet animals at the lake. The three women and one man, who were dressed in robes, explained to Karen, one of the park's rangers, that it was required in the Buddhist tradition to free their two turtles and two parakeets on that very day. Karen objected.
I witnessed the slight argument when the Buddhists softly insisted that they proceed with what they came to do. Eventually, Karen agreed to let them release the turtles but not the parakeets. Maybe the turtles could survive, but the small parakeets would be killed by predators, she said. I offered to take the birds as pets, but the Buddhists declined my offer and admitted that they would probably go somewhere else to release them.
Karen told me it was sad because the birds would be a sacrifice to the wild. I wondered if that was the idea, but my sadness was interrupted by Karen telling me the story of the giant goldfish that the Buddhists set free last year.
"How big is a giant goldfish?" I asked. Karen laughed and said that the goldfish grew to 100 lbs.