The discovery of the oldest sea turtle fossils shows that this ancient animal swam the ocean at least 150 million years ago.
Despite of the length of time they have lived through and survived all the disasters and even the mass extinction in the cretaceous period that wiped out dinosaurs and more than other 90% of animals and plant species living on land.
The study said the sea turtles survived because being tough and live in aquatic style and able to dive into the depths. They have slow metabolism that only needs little energy, they can survive on sparse resources during and after the mass extinction.
Sea turtles are part of two ecosystem, the coastal and the marine system. If sea turtles became extinct both ecosystem would be negatively affected.
There are seven species of sea turtles around the world and five of its species are found in the Philippines. These are Green turtle, Hawsbill, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley and the Leather Back sea turtles. These sea turtles are commonly called “Pawikan” in the Philippines. The two other species not present in the country are the Flatback and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. All these sea turtles are threatened in many ways at alarming rates in recent decades. The sea turtles are clearly under treat due to various changes brought about human activities and lifestyles.
The baby sea turtle is commonly called as hatchling.
Threats to sea turtles
- Loss of nesting habitats through human development activities
- Building of sea walls, jetties port and others
- Merciless slaughter of hunters.
- Pollution of the oceans by chemicals and garbage’s
- Harvesting of turtles for their shells, leather and meat.
- Poaching of sea turtle eggs.
- Death in drift nets, gill-nets, shrimp trawling nets and other fishing gears.
- Oil and gas exploration
- Beach erosion, beach cleaning and improvement
- Artificial lighting in the beach front, street light which disorient hatchling.
There are many conservation efforts taking place to aid in the protection of sea turtle in other countries.
In the Philippines, The Bantay Pawikan initiated the first in situ turtle conservation project called the Community Based Pawikan Conservation in small barangay of Nagbalayong, in Morong Bataan in 1999. The members of the Bantay Pawikan are former turtle poachers and egg collectors, who have turned to Pawikan conservation advocacy.
Despite of existing laws and regulations to protect threatened sea turtles the enforcer may not enough to watch all the waterfront across the country.
Hence, awareness campaign raising proved to be effective component of overall strategy to protect the sea turtle. The awareness requires participation not only by their neighborhood community but participation of more and more people by organizing events for its success is a great way to participate in wildlife conservation project effectively.
By participation, people will experience to be a part of the sea turtles watchers, a sea turtles night patrol, where sea turtle come ashore and lay eggs, and an opportunity of releasing a baby sea turtles in an open sea.
Research supported the transfer of egg. The relocation is one of the factor to consider, where it was give a higher probability or a most favorable habitat.
The transfer is to protect the egg from predators such as dog, lizard(bayawak), crabs and others that consume the nest, or even from people who want to loot it and or for man curiosity. Another thing is the risk of flooding and inundations during heavy rain or typhoon
The average eggs per clutch is 100 pieces, look like a ping pong ball shaped. The eggs are soft-shelled and are papery to leathery texture. The eggs are surrounded by a thick clear mucas and not break when fall in egg cavity.
From September to January, sea turtles return to the coasts of Bcgac and Morong, Bataan, known as the nesting grounds of the three out of the five species of sea turtles in the country. The volunteers collect and transfer eggs to a hatchery for incubation.
During the nesting season, many visitors gather at the center to watch the sea turtles come ashore and in the evening lay eggs.
- Incubation time varies with species, clutch size and temperature and humidity of the nest.
- Incubation time for most species is from 45 days to 70 days.
- Research indicates that the sex of an embryo is determined sometimes after the fertilization, as the embryo develops and may be temperature dependent. Lower nest temperature produce more males, higher temperature produces more females.
- After 45 to 70 days, the hatchlings begins to pip or break out their eggs, using small temporary tooth located on their snout called caruncle. Once out of their eggs, they will remain in the nest for a number of days. During this time they will absorb their yolk, which is attached by umbilical to their abdomen. This yolk will provide them the much needed energy for their first few days, while they make their way from nest to offshore waters.
Free the Baby Turtles
Watching the baby turtles from the container to the hand of volunteers that bring them in the shore, struggling out to make their way to the water is a joyful moment at the same time an emotional experience for the volunteers. Some give names to the baby turtle, some wishes, some prayed for them to survived to adulthood under natural conditions and be back in the same shore after 25 years.
Reaching The Ocean
There are several theories as how baby turtles find the sea. Baby turtles may distinguish light intensities and head for the greater light intensity of the open horizon. During the crawl to the sea, the baby turtle may set an internal magnetic compass that use for navigation away the seashore.
Once the baby turtles reaches the surf, it dives into a wave and rides the undertow out to sea. A “swim frenzy” of continous swimming takes place for about 24-48 hours after the baby turtles enter into the water. The frantic activity gets the baby turtles into deeper water, where it is less vulnerable to predators.
There are studies of swimming this baby turtles diving straight down when birds and even airplane appear overhead. This daiving behavior maybe a behavioral adaptation for avoiding predator from above.
The First Year
As estimated, only 1 in every 1,000 hatchling will survive to adulthood.
In the first year, many species of the sea turtles are rarely seen in the ocean. Their first year is known as the “lost year.” where hatchling go and how they survives is a mystery (according to the researcher)
Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, while the female come to their nesting beach during the cold season (between September to January) to lay their eggs (about 100 average eggs per nest)
The History and Social Significance Behind Sea Turtles
Turtles have been a major, traditional, social and economic significance to many coastal communities in Asia Pacific region for centuries. For example, according to Hindu mythology, the India Deity Vishnu was reincarnated as “Kachhpa” , a turtle holding the burden of the world on its back. world
Turtle meat and eggs have provided valuable sources of sustenance while shell were sought after for ceremonial and ornaments and utensils have been a part trade in Asia Pacific region.
Large amount of turtle eggs are in great demand for food and medicine, consumed mostly in South East Asian sub-region.
The exploitation of eggs initially started as a traditional source of food within the local communities. Customary beliefs about the aphrodisiac and medicinal properties of turtles egg have also encouraged a huge commercial market for the eggs within South East Asia.
The expansion of European civilization during the 1600’s to 17oo’s defended in part upon adequate food supply for ship crew. Sea turtles were a ready seemingly inexhaustible source of food. The northern hemisphere’s subsequent fondness for turtle soup in the Victorian era led to large scale commercial turtle harvesting, putting many turtles population under even more severe strain. turtle harvesting and canning factories were still operational in places like Western Australia as late as the 1970’s.
Today, in China, there’s a group of Chinese in Hainan China called “Sea Turtles 911” They are trying to rescue captured sea turtles, and spread awareness in China that haunting sea turtles is bad to environment. China continuously poaching sea turtles, for sea turtle soup, turtle eggs, turtle bone ground up for use in Chinese medicine to promote human longevity.
The demand lingers, and the supply near the Philippines water (Palawan) seems too tempting for Chinese poachers to resit, especially with the Chinese government insisting that these water are China’s to exploit.
The Chinese government aspiring to be an imperialist country has long been using their small fisher-folks as pawns in their campaigning to impose their territory grabbing in West Philippines sea and the rest of Asia Pacific through the baseless nine dash line claim.
The China is creating another great wall, a “Great Wall of Sand” in the South china Sea. The recent large scale land reclamation and construction of artificial island, China violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and habitat depleted, threatened, or endangered species and inflicted irreparable harm to marine environment.
For reservation and schedule of visit, you may get in touch with Mr. Manola Ibias at mobile numbers 0921-630-2842 and 0906-615-5546.
Rates and Fees:
- Php. 20.00 viewing fee
- Php. 150.00 whole day stay, including the use of cottages and resort amenities (CR/Barthrooms etc)
- Php. 250.00 overnight stay including the pitching of tent, plus a change to join and experience a sea turtle night patrol, where sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs.
Room Rates: Air conditioned
- Php. 2500.00 – 4 fax
- Php. 4,500.00 – 16 fax
- Php. 3,000.00 Sweet Rooms- 4-5 fax
- National Marine Life Center
- Bonaire Sea Turtle Conservation
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