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CAVITE, Philippines – The 73 Olive Ridley sea turtles that were released on the coast of Barangay Labac in the town of Naic on Tuesday, January 16, were the first batch of hatchling in 2024. And thousands more are expected to follow – if we go by the track record of the hatchling facility here.
In the year just past, the Marine Turtle Hatchery in Naic was able to release around 7,000 hatchlings to their natural habitat, Roger Bilugan of the Samahan ng Labac Pawikan Patroller told Rappler.
Up until 2022, according to a previous report by Xinhua, the facility released “4,000 to 5,000 turtle hatchlings yearly.”
Volunteer ‘pawikan’ patrollers
The hatchling center was established around 2014. Currently, it has 20 volunteers who patrol the shores of Labac every night to look for sea turtle eggs to take to the facility.
“Before, our patrolling was not that intense. As time went on, we improved how we took care of [the eggs]. Now, we even reach the neighboring barangays to take care of the turtle eggs [from there],” said Bilugan, who used to be the barangay chairperson of Labac.
At the facility, Bilugan said, it takes 60 days before turtle eggs hatch. They are then taken to the sea for their natural habitat – but not until it’s about to get dark.
Bilugan said the dark shields the hatchlings from predators, who could swoop down on them before they get to the water.
Based on the facility’s records, breeding season starts in September. For 2023, the last eggs were picked up by volunteer patrollers on December 15. The hatchlings released on Tuesday were eggs picked up on November 16.
The non-government organization Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines says on its website: “The Philippines is home to 5 of the 7 sea turtle species in the world: Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Leatherback Turtle and Olive Ridley. All species are endangered and are listed on the IUCN Red List.”
Jacinta Remulla, daughter of Justice Secretary Boying Remulla who traces her grandmother’s roots to Naic, joined the volunteer patrollers in releasing the 73 sea turtles on Tuesday.
“I am here to invite many sponsors and people, who are environmentalists, to come and join us in supporting the Samahan ng Labac Pawikan Patroller, who are passionate about taking good care of our sea turtles. Many do not even know that there is a nesting facility here in the town of Naic. Please feel free to contact the patrollers here in Labac and we invite you to this amazing experience,” she said. – with Miriam Grace Go/Rappler