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Posted By Chas

 

I had planned my new years to be one of quiet reflection, some writing, as well as a time for some un-distracted business planning. I has booked myself into a resort in Pundekit,San Anthony Zambales. This beautiful area along the south China Seas is about a hour drive north of Subic Bay and is the home of a number of different resorts. New Years is often associated with rebirth even the symbolism of father time leaving and a new baby arriving, I happen to be lucky and happened upon the perfect way to start the countdown to new years. On New Years eve right before sunset, I saw a man walking along the beach carrying a wash tub. Gathering around him was a group of children trying to peer into his tub,adults were also tagging along. Reaching a somewhat smooth turtlessection of beach he set his tub down and the children dropped to their knees and gather around it. The mans name is Mike Robertson and he is from the Environmental Protection Agency of Asia, A non profit group involved in environmental projects. Mike is responsible for the Pundekit Turtle Conservatory and his tub contained 154 olive ridley turtles that had hatched early morning.

 

The west coast of Luzon is the nesting home of a number of marine turtle species. Like many people around the world, the people of the Philippines used to capture turtles for their meat and shells as well as collecting the eggs. Now public awareness  has caused that to change. The Pawikan festival held in Bataan each November is a prime example. A four day event celebrating turtle conservation,with dance competition, ecology contest, musical performances and other events leading to a ceremonial release of  turtles. The release in Bataan are some of the earliest hatchings of the season. As early as July a turtle may show up to lay a clutch of eggs but hatching are rare, it may be that the bad storms has cause salt water to enter the eggs or it may be they were not fertilized. Turtles start nesting in October according to Mike, he said that there is often days between finds but by the end of November and early December there may be five or more nest found each day and during that time he often finds two even three nest in the section of beach he patrols. By the end of December the number of new nest drops off. While it is mostly the Olive Ridleys that nest here, there are some hawk bills. In past years there have been some green turtles but so far this year none have been found.


release

 


 
Posted By Chas

zambales turtle
Now with the support of non-profit organizations both in the Philippines and abroad, those who once exploited the turtles are now protecting them. Development pressure and other human activities have reduced  the number and safety of the nesting sites. While other events have reduced the number of turtles available to reach the nesting sites. To help safeguard the reduced number of eggs, Non-profit organizations have stepped in to assist. Volunteers look for signs on the beach that a turtle has come ashore to lay eggs. When they find them they locate the nest and mark it. If the location is at risk the eggs are harvested and transported to one of the conservatories along the coast. When they arrive at the conservatory they are reburied and the new nest is tagged with information about its original location and date. Hatching   takes about seven weeks depending on the species  and the temperature of the sand. When the time for hatching gets near the conservatory staff place plastic mesh cones around the nest and starts looking for signs that hatching has started. The early signs will be a depression in the sand. As the turtles come out the shells and the shells breaks and the sand fills in the space. It may take a day or so for the turtles to get to the surface, normally reaching the surface at night and then heading to the water. The mesh cone keeps the turtles together and away from the water. The baby turtles are gathered counted and the nest examined for unhatched eggs.

 

 

When Mike had his group around him, he had them spread out in a line facing the water. He then walked down the line with his tub giving adult and child alike a chance to pick out a turtle or two to release. bending over or kneeling in the sand they released “their” turtles and encouraged them to crawl to the sea. Sometimes a strong wave would hit them and send them back to where they started. The people would rush to them and get them headed in the right direction. It took most of the turtles a number of times before they were able to make it safety into the surf. The process was repeated until they all were safely in the sea.

 

Only God knows what the future will hold for these little ones, however they are off to a good start. the conservatories not only helps to counteract man's destruction but also helps to protect them from natural predators. In the wild, nest are often raided by other animals who eat the eggs. Birds will often feast on hatching as they struggle to the sea. Some experts suggest that as many as half the eggs laid never make it to the sea.  These one hundred fifty four turtles came from two nest along the the Zambales coast, and with the help of Mike and the volunteers who first found the nest, all of the eggs hatched and the turtles all made it to the sea. For the next 20 years the turtles will roam the world, most will not survive but those that do will return here. The females will crawl back onto the same beach and lay her own clutch of eggsturtles into sunset

 

 

 

 

 
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