For hundreds of years, marine turtles lived in the vast oceans and they coexist with humans in many countries and shores each time they visit land.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had reported many sightings of marine turtles nesting in Western Visayas.
Boracay Island, for one, has been tagged as the “turtle haven” because of the simultaneous releases and discovery of turtle nesting sites on the island.
A leatherback turtle—the world’s largest known marine turtle and the fourth-heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians—was found and rescued at Barangay Malacañang, Culasi town, in Antique province by the Community ENR Office (Cenro) on September 7.
The marine turtle was reported by Mark Jay Ortega as it was tangled in fish traps in the area.
It has a thick leathery skin with longitudinal ridges instead of a hard shell.
Leatherbacks are the only turtle that does not have a hard shell. It has a curved carapace length of 115 centimeters and width of 82 cm.
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 on Panay Island.
Solis has been working with sea turtles rescue for the past 15 years.
Another turnover, tagging and release were done at Sitio Banacan, Barangay Cabalagnan, Nueva Valencia town, on the island province of Guimaras on September 9 to the rescued hawksbill sea turtle.
The marine turtle was caught in a net and was reported to the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office 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 “tortoiseshell” in markets.
They are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Factors that affect their decline include loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, pollution, coastal development and they are the most threatened by wildlife trade.
The marine turtle was released back to its habitat through the joint efforts of the Nueva Valencia municipal government, Barangay Cabalagnan and Provincial ENR Office, represented by Rhett Arthur Diana, Environmental Management Specialist II, and other staff from Taklong Island National Marine Reserve.
“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 of trapped turtles and we continue to urge the general 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.
The protection of marine turtles and other animals are part of the Enhanced Biodiversity Conservation which is one of the 10 priority programs of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.