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‘Pawikan’ freed amid threats to nesting sites

/ 04:05 AM December 14, 2019

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—In the midst of a construction boom around their vulnerable nests, 100 baby “pawikan” (sea turtles) crawled back into their natural habitat after they hatched at a beach resort inside this free port.

The olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) were born at a conservation sanctuary at All Hands Beach, one of the seven major beach areas that have been identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as nesting sites for marine turtles.

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Cold season

The newborn pawikan belonged to the first batch of baby sea turtles released by the resort for the cold season, said Selina Jayme, protected areas division chief of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority ecology department.

Beach guests and representatives from the Philippine National Police Maritime Group joined the ceremonial release on Tuesday. Since 2012, the resort’s management had released 5,374 baby pawikan to the sea, Jayme said.

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According to the DENR, the olive ridley is among three species of sea turtles found in Zambales. Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) also lay eggs on the province’s coastline.But Jayme said the recent construction activities around Subic Bay could pose danger to the nesting sites of marine turtles. “We’re worried that with the construction of sports venues [for the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games] in the free port, these hatching areas might be disturbed,” she said.

The free port hosted 17 SEA Games events, some of which were water sports such as sailing, wind surfing and traditional boat race.

Jayme said the threats caused by human activities, including property development near the shoreline, might alter these nesting sites and abort or delay egg laying of marine turtles.

DENR officials said newly hatched sea turtles only had a 1 percent survival rate due to several other obstacles.

Aside from being eaten by predators, such as sharks and fish, baby sea turtles face other threats caused by humans, including ocean pollution and poaching. —JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT

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TAGS: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Pawikan, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
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