Sarangani raises alarm over rising sea turtle deaths

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Environment personnel in Sarangani have raised alarm over the rising cases of deaths since last year of the critical sea turtles or “pawikan” in parts of the province’s coastal areas.

Dr. Roy Mejorada, the in-house veterinarian of the Sarangani Environmental Conservation and Protection Center, said Monday they have asked the Protected Area Management Board of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape to look into the suspicious deaths of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the area.

He said there are documented cases indicating that the turtles might have died due to possible human abuse.

Mejorada, who is also a marine biologist, cited the case of a dead male olive ridley turtle that washed ashore last April 27 at a portion of Sitio Bilong-Bilong, Barangay Maribulan in Alabel town.

He said the turtle had a fatal head injury, which appeared similar to the case of the injured turtle that was found stranded in Alabel’s shoreline last April 12.

The dead turtle, which measured 64 centimeters long and weighed about 30 to 40 kilos, had injuries on the throat and liver and could have suffered from “internal hemorrhage.”

“A necropsy conducted on the dead sea turtle suggests that the head injury could possibly be human-inflicted,” he said in a radio interview.

Since last year, Mejorada said a total of 16 dead marine turtles have washed ashore in parts of the province.

Portions of the shores of Sarangani’s six coastal municipalities had been identified as nesting sites of olive ridley sea turtles. The municipalities of Maasim and Maitum have established hatcheries for the species.

Mejorada said the turtles have been thriving in the shores of Sarangani Bay to hunt for food and partners.

He admitted that the turtles were considered as pests by “guso” or seaweed planters in coastal villages in the province and this city.

“They will be included in the investigation,” Mejorada said.

He reiterated that any form of violence against wildlife, especially to vulnerable species like marine turtles, is punishable under Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Since it happened within a declared protected seascape, he added that offenders may be further penalized for violating provisions of RA 11038 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act. (PNA)

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