By Judy F. Partlow
Ninety baby turtles of the endangered Olive Ridley species (Lepidochelys olivacea) were released to the sea at the coast of Barangay Lipayo in Dauin, Negros Oriental yesterday.
The four day-old hatchlings were collected by the Bantay Dagat Saturday morning from the nest in a resort in Poblacion 3, Dauin, on Friday, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer, Mario Aragon, said.
Aragon said that, while it is illegal under Philippine law to collect the hatchlings, Bantay Dagat members intended to save them from predators, like animals and humans.
Reports said dogs and children had started gathering around the baby turtles. The mother turtle was not seen in the area in the past weeks but Aragon said he believes it could be in the coast of Dauin.
Ninety-two hatchlings and four eggs that later turned infertile were brought to the guardhouse of the Lipayo Fishermen’s Association for temporary custody. They were placed in a tank where two of them died before they were released to the sea. Steve de Neef, a freelance photographer and videographer based in Dumaguete City, documented their release. He said that, based on the photos he sent them, AA Yaptinchay of the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, said he believes the turtles are of the Olive Ridley species, listed as vulnerable under the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
De Neef said he believes that there could be other nests of the same Olive Ridley mother in Dauin, as normally, a female lays eggs at least five times in 10 days to two weeks between nesting. The eggs hatch after 56 days.
Dauin Mayor Neil Credo said he has ordered the Bantay Dagat and the fishermen’s associations to be on the alert for sea turtle eggs. He said he will not allow unscrupulous persons to take advantage of the presence of the reptiles in the town, especially as trading of turtle eggs and meat has become lucrative in the black market.