animal welfare

Over 200 olive ridley sea turtle eggs relocated in Boracay to boost survival

Jun Aguirre
Over 200 olive ridley sea turtle eggs relocated in Boracay to boost survival

RELOCATION. An environmental worker gathers the eggs of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle on Boracay beach preparatory to transferring these to an area less disturbed by tourists and away from high tide waters.

DENR Western Visayas

Olive ridley sea turtles are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

AKLAN, Philippines – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) staff have relocated some 243 newly-laid eggs of olive ridley sea turtles from the beach of this resort island to higher ground to keep them safe from tourists and high tide levels that have slowly creeped up through the years.

Marine biologist Haron Deo Vargas of the Boracay Community Environment and Natural Resources Office said the first turtle laid 135 eggs on November 10. CENRO staff discovered another set of 108 eggs at the Movenpick Resort on November 17.

“The 135-egg batch is considered the largest clutch so far of ridley eggs recorded in this resort island,” Vargas said.

The long COVID-19 pandemic lockdown that scuttled tourist arrivals in Boracay provided a more conducive atmosphere for egg-laying as well as hatching space for the olive ridleys, the marine biologist surmised.

DO NOT DISTURB. Staff of the local environmental office in Boracay put yellow tape around the site of turtle eggs’ next just a few meters from the water waterline. (DENR Western Visayas)

Now the return of tourism to pre-pandemic levels and incremental increase in high tide levels in the island threaten new eggs and their survival rate, prompting the decision to transfer the eggs to higher areas.

The animal, which can be found in many coastal areas of the Philippines, is listed as “vulnerable” under the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of an observed 30% to 50% reduction in its global population size, according to the DENR.

According to experts, the decline is due primarily to hunting and poaching, as well as the degradation of nesting sites and habitats.

Vargas said the eggs need to be protected from disturbance brought by tourists as well as the threat represented by higher tide levels.

NEXT GENERATION. A Ridley Sea Turtle burrows into the sand to lay eggs on the beach of the world-famous Boracay island. DENR Western Vsiayas

Vargas told Rappler in an interview November 21 that based on their observation, the survival rate of olive ridley turtles in Boracay is 1 for every 1,000 eggs.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that less than a thousand turtles are estimated to survive per 10,000 eggs. This has been corrected.

“Among the problems involved were predation, diseases and at times anthroprogenic,” Vargas added, referring to made-made changes to the environment. “It is a global problem which also concerns global warming.”

The marine biologist did not specify the change in tide height, but Crisostomo Aquino, a local businessman, sent photos of exposed roots of coconut trees here, usually a sign of coastal erosion.

EROSION. Exposed roots of coconut trees show the effects of erosion of the top soil on the coast of world famous Boracay island. Crisostomo Aquino
PREPPING FOR TRANSFER. Staff of the local environmental office in Boracay island brushes off sand with his hands to unearth Ridley Sea Turtles eggs that need transfer to ensure a better survival rate. DENR Western Visayas

In 2018, the National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE) placed rising sea levels as the top threat linked to climate change.

The NPTE warned that the Philippines is experiencing one of the fastest rates of sea level rise in the world and that the phenomenon is affecting around 800 municipalities.

The next biggest threats – coastal erosion, flooding and increasing frequency and severity of tropical cyclones – also affect Boracay.

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