Turtles! oh, they are so cute.
Were my thoughts when I saw them wriggling. I was told that they are ready to be released to the ocean and our own hunt the night before of a mother turtle laying eggs were naught, they were as elusive as true love.
When it was time for us to release the baby turtles or known as hatchlings, the emotion was bittersweet. I lay my turtle on the fine sand, a few meters away from the water and whispered, good luck my dear.
I hope the baby turtle will survive.
Imprinting is an important process the baby turtles have to go through, it is the process of making them walk a certain length of sea shore towards the water. This will guide the female when they come back to hatch.
However, the sad part is that only 1 in 1,000 hatchling will survive and the probability that the hatchling I released would not survive made me wanted to cry. Survival for them meant death of several others yet even that small percentage signifies hope and all those involved in conservation of this beautiful creatures battle this and cling to that hope each time a group of eggs are hatched and released to the ocean.
According to the Pawikan Conservation Center, the Philippines has five of the seven sea turtles in the world and the most common is the Olive Ridley.
The sea turtles have been identified as endangered subject to the mercy of humans due to plastic ingestion, climate change and poaching.
Manolo who heads the Pawikan Conservatory Center in Morong, Bataan was once a poacher turned conservationist and his journey towards protecting turtles entailed a lot of work and sacrifice.
Fast facts about sea turtles:
- Sea turtle hatchlings eat a variety of prey including things like molluscs and crustaceans, hydrozoans, sargassum sea weed, jellyfish, and fish eggs. Unfortunately, hatchlings also mistake garbage and objects like tar balls as food and ingest them.
- Hatchlings use the natural light horizon, which is usually over the ocean, along with the white crests of the waves to reach the water when they emerge from the nest. Any other light sources such as beachfront lighting, street lights, light from cars, campfires etc. can lead hatchlings in the wrong direction, also known as disorientation.
- Once out of the nest, hatchlings face many predators including ghost crabs, birds, raccoons, dogs, and fish.
- The temperature of the sand that ranges within 28-29 degrees Celsius determines the gender of the hatchling because they don’t have sex chromosomes
- From the time they are released or leave the nest they would not be seen again, this stage of their life is unknown but they will emerge again when they reached maturity and are ready to mate and breed. Scientists calls the stage as “Lost years”.
- Females will mate with multiple males storing sperm to fertilize multiple clutches of eggs that will be laid over the course of a couple of months
- Females come ashore to lay eggs, usually near the area where they hatched perhaps two or more decades earlier and how they navigate and find their way back to it is still a mystery
- Except for the Kemp Ridley, adult females do not nest every year. Depending on the species, they will mate and lay eggs every 2-4 years. Males however, may mate with females every year
- The time to sexual maturity (adulthood) ranges between approximately 10 and 50 years depending on the species of sea turtle
Geared towards protecting the environment, CLIMBER (Climbers League for Ideal Mountaineering and Balanced Environmental Responsiveness) teamed up with the conservation center to expose and bring awareness to its members. This year, more than 15 people signed up on their event.
I really hope that with the boom of scuba diving, free diving and snorkeling in the country, more people will appreciate and protect these lovely creatures.
If you are interested, you can contact sir Manolo, head of Pawikan Conservation Center located in Morong, Bataan at 0921 630 2842. You can drop by their center from January to mid March and experience the euphoric feeling of releasing turtles to the ocean. Be part of the bandwagon!
Note: featured photo credits to Albert Salvatierra, one of the participants of the event.