SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: Ninety-six Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings, a seriously endangered species of sea turtles, slowly crawled their way to the sea after they were released at the beach here last Saturday.
Amethya dela Llana Koval, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Ecology Center manager, said the ritual is a tradition these turtles must follow for them to remember their footprints when they decide to come back to the same place years later to nest and lay their eggs.
The All Hands Beach, like most other coastal areas in this former US naval base that is now a bustling freeport and economic zone, regularly hosts turtles on its shores and the owner of the beach has ensured that they return to their nesting ground without being “disoriented” and the eggs laid will be protected until they hatch and are ready to make their trip to the open sea.
According to experts, these turtles have a very small chance of survival once they are in the sea and only a mere one percent of them are likely to survive the perilous journey.
“There are actually 105 in this batch of turtle eggs but six did not make it that’s why only 96 are being released now,” says Nick, a turtle expert at the beach who watches over the eggs throughout their hatching period.
According to him, female turtles lay about a hundred eggs but may nest up to three times in a year.
The nesting season starts somewhere in the latter half of the year and lasts until December.
Aside from SBMA Ecology Center officials and other Subic investors, beach goers joined in releasing the hatchlings.
Koval said more people should be encouraged to help in preserving the endangered pawikan turtles as well as other sea creatures by avoiding the use of plastics and throwing them in the sea.
“These turtles sometimes mistake the plastic for jellyfish and ingest them, resulting in their death,” she added.
The Olive Ridley, which has a lifespan of up to 50 years, feeds on jellyfish, snails, crabs, shrimp and occasionally eat algae and seaweeds.
Hatchlings, most of which perish before reaching the ocean, are preyed on by crabs, raccoons, pigs, snakes and birds while adults are often taken by sharks or sometimes hurt by fishermen or boats and ships.
Though widely considered the most abundant of marine turtles, the Olive Ridley is described as a turtle specie in trouble. It is a very rapidly declining population, according to experts while other turtle populations are just threatened.
The Philippines, like many other governments, have initiated actions for the protection of Olive Ridleys but face difficulties as eggs are still being taken and nesting females are slaughtered for their meat and skin.
Fishing nets also exact a huge toll on them, frequently snagging and drowning these turtles.