Amidst pandemic, 2020 is a blessed year for the Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI) as it welcomed two additional captive-bred Palawan Forest Turtles in Katala Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation (KIEBC) in the Municipality of Narra.
After the latest hatching on July 31, KIEBC’s assistant keeper Shiela Mae Cetenta said that she was overjoyed with the hatchling of another Palawan Forest Turtle on August 17, a day before her birthday.
The second hatchling under the care of Shiela Mae is named “Hilda,” after the name of the aunt of PFTCP Project Director, Dr. Sabine Schoppe who has turned 100 on August 19. Baby “Hilda” has a median carapace length of 43.3 mm and body weight of 16 grams.
What enthralled the assistant keeper even more is when she discovered on August 19 that yet another one has hatched, months earlier than the recent hatchlings “Shi” and “Hilda.”
The egg of the latest encounter had been laid and hatched undiscovered in a large outdoor enclosure in KIEBC.
“Magmi-mating observe [lang] sana ako [that time], kasi every week may isang gabi ‘yan na [nakalaan sa] mating observation. Una kong pinuntahan ang enclosure, nakaupo ako harap sa pond at nakita ko lang no’ng una, through flashlight, si #184F sa ilalim ng pond. After two minutes, natitigan ko sa gilid ng pond, may maliit na pagong naka-float at natitigan ko, [maliit na] leytensis pala! So, kinuha ko siya sa pamamagitan ng maliit silo,” she shared joyfully.
She immediately reported it to Dr. Schoppe who told her that based on the size and weight, baby “Christian,” as they dearly called the new found turtle, had hatched during the last week of February this year.
“Based daw sa kanyang sukat—carapace length at timbang – na-hatched daw ‘yon katapusan ng February [pa],” she added.
Turtle “Christian” measures 69.9 in length and weighs 59.9 grams and is now placed in a separate enclosure to monitor its development.
“In the recent past, we have produced 10 captive-bred Palawan Forest Turtle at their assurance colony, and six of these are from 2020 alone. With this, we certainly can say that we accomplished an important step in the conservation of this critically endangered freshwater turtle that only occurs in Palawan,” Schoppe said. “This was possible, thanks to the joined efforts of KFI, PCSDS, and the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, who fund the breeding program in its 7th year now.”
Dr. Schoppe added that although the pandemic hampers activities under the PFTCP, two of the components, that is the safeguarding of viable populations of the Palawan Forest Turtle in actively protected areas, and conservation breeding continued without major restrains.