With the pandemic on everyone’s mind, it is a “refreshing” change of pace to receive some good news on the environment front. Early this month, two endangered turtles were rescued in separate occasions, one in Culasi in Antique, and another in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras.
According to reports from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 6, it has received many sightings of marine turtles nesting in Western Visayas.
“Boracay Island, for one, has been tagged as a ‘turtle haven’ because of the simultaneous releases and discovery of turtle nesting sites in the island,” the agency said.
Thus, the rescue of the world’s largest known marine turtle (and the fourth heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians)—the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)—was a welcome news in the environment world. The specie was found and rescued at Brgy. Malacañang, Culasi, Antique by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Culasi. The marine turtle was reported by Mark Jay Ortega as it was tangled in fish traps in the area.
The specie has a thick leathery skin with longitudinal ridges instead of a hard shell. Leatherbacks are the only turtle that doesn’t have a hard shell. It has a curved carapace length of 115 centimeters and curved carapace width of 82 centimeters. After tagging, it was immediately released back to the sea. Leatherbacks are also called leathery turtle, lute turtle, or just luth.
Ellen Flor Solis of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) noted that this is the second Leatherback turtle that was reported rescued in Panay Island. Solis has been working with sea turtles rescue for the past 15 years.
Another turnover, tagging, and release was done at Sitio Banacan, Brgy. Cabalagan, Nueva Valencia in the island province of Guimaras to a rescued Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). The marine turtle was caught in a net and was reported to the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) and Provincial ENR Office of Guimaras.
Hawksbills have narrow, pointed beak. Their overlapping scales on their shells form a serrated look and is the turtle’s distinctive feature. Such colored and patterned shells make Hawkbills highly valuable and were commonly sold as “tortoise shell” in markets. They are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. Factors that affect their decline include loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, pollution, coastal development, and threatened mostly by wildlife trade.
Through the joint efforts of the municipal local government unit of Nueva Valencia, Barangay LGU of Cabalagnan, Nueva Valencia, and Provincial ENR Office represented by Environmental Management Specialist (EMS) II Rhett Arthur Diana and other staff from the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMR), the marine turtle was released back to its habitat
“Turtles are one of the oldest creatures still in existence, with an average life span of 100 years. We laud the efforts of those who helped the release trapped turtles and we continue to urge the public to help us strengthen the protection of our natural resources—both in land and water,” said DENR 6 regional executive director Francisco E. Milla, Jr.