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The Marine Turtle conservation project released 78 newly hatched Olive Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) locally known as pawikan in Purok Lalawigan, Barangay Simpocan last week, in an effort to help increase the population of the endangered sea turtles.
The hatchlings were released shortly before sunset by officers and personnel from the City Government of Puerto Princesa specifically from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office and City Tourism Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)- CENRO, officials and local residents of Barangay Simpocan.
The 78 hatchlings were produced out of 85 eggs. The eggs are hatched from 45 to 75 days. When the mother sea turtle laid the eggs, it should be immediately transferred to the hatchery within two hours. In Purok Lalawigan, Barangay Simpocan, an approximately 6 square meter hatchery enclosed by a plastic screen and mesh enclosure is placed, strategically within the beachfront. The hatchery is located in a beachfront property owned by a private owner.
“Pagkatapos mangitlog ay dapat within two hours ay mailipat na (sa hatchery). Kung ma-hatch na ang mga itlog ng pawikan ay kailangan ng bitawan pagsapit ng dapit hapon,” said Gilbert Hermogenes, one of the local volunteers who is actively involved in the program. The City Government through the City ENRO has provided incentives to him and other local volunteers who are members of Bantay Pawikan project.
Currently, there are two sets of eggs from two mother sea turtles which will be hatched before the end of March 2020. Hermogenes said that one set has 145 eggs while another set is 165 eggs.
The conservation effort is part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project through its Philippine-American Fund, a facility that provides seed funding to support biodiversity conservation initiatives implemented in the city from 2014 until 2018. Environmental Management Specialist (EMS) Myla Adriano said that since the USAID support to the project has been terminated since 2018, the City Environment and Natural Resource Office supported and sustained the project by providing incentives for Bantay Pawikan members who continuously monitored marine turtle breeding sites, and maintained the hatchery.
Adriano explained that in choosing the site for the release of sea turtles it should be free from any obstructions such as man-made structures, drift logs and other vegetation. The release should also be made at dusk, or dawn or in the evening when both land and sea predators are less.
The book “Philippine Aquatic Wildlife Rescue and Response Manual” published by Marine Wild Fauna Watch of the Philippines, Inc. said that it is best to leave a nest in its natural state because this will ensure a higher hatching success rate, however interventions should be made if there are high risk of the high tide flooding the nest, beach erosion, high risk of predators, and other disturbances. It low nesting incident beaches, it is best to leave the nest where it is or leaving the nest on site also known as In Situ. If there are really threats to the nest, relocating eggs to a hatchery or also known as Ex Situ is necessary.
Simpocan Punong Barangay Renato F. Nario said that placing properly the newly produced eggs in the hatchery is necessary to protect it from dogs or any wild animals around. He said that sustaining this effort of supporting the conservation of marine turtles is very important and should teach many people to help protect and conserve the marine species.
Present during the releasing were DENR-CENRO personnel Senior Environmental Management Specialist Vivian Soriano and Forest Ranger Raymund C. Sapang, City Tourism Office personnel headed by Aileen Cynthia Amurao, Environmental Management Specialist Myla S. Adriano of City ENRO, Punong Barangay of Simpocan Renato F. Nario and other barangay officials and barangay tanod, among others.