By Gabriela Baron
At least six small sea otters of a never-before seen species in the Philippines were spotted on the coasts of Taganak Island, a component island of Turtle Islands in Tawi-tawi.
The otters were initially thought to be Asian small-clawed otters, a species endemic to Palawan.
However, District 1 Community Environment and Natural Resources Office chief (CENRO) Abdulmukim Maruji ruled this out.
“So far, we don’t have a record of this species in the Philippines, this is the first time we saw such kind in the country,” Maruji said.
He added that the new species can be found in Malaysia.
“They might be drifted in the island, they might also be exploring for new habitat because they were disturbed, or looking for food,” Maruji explained.
The CENRO officer said that otters add to rich biodiversity of Tawi-Tawi, but are vulnerable to being endangered.
He added that CENRO has already coordinated with Turtle Island’s Protected Area Supervisor Office (PASO) under Region IX and other law enforcers to ensure the protection of the sea animals.
“Whether they stay here for good, we will ensure they will be protected,” Maruji said.
Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary said the otters were seen on several occasions on May 15 to 22 at the Taganak seashore.