Monday, January 4, 2016

Releasing baby marine turtles to greet New Year 2016

Children release baby marine turtles to the sea. 

Year 2016 was met with fire and water: the usual noisy, smoky and loud greetings from Bocaue (and imported) firecrackers and the rain from heaven. The pollution from the fireworks was doused by the wet weather.

Two days before the New Year, more than a hundred hatchlings emerged from nests of olive ridley marine turtle eggs at the PawiCare (chort for pawikan care) hatchery at the coastal barangay of La Paz in San Narciso, Zambales.

I was happy to be around to talk to local and foreign visitors esp. the children about the need to conserve/preserve marine turtles, how our volunteer fishermen sacrifice their time to protect these endangered species, and what they can do also become 'friends of the pawikan.'

Tracking the hatchling as it scampers to the sea.

Of course, at the end of the short talk, the excited visitors all gathered a few steps from the foamy edge of the West Philippine Sea. All cupped a hatching in their hands (with enough time for selfies, of course), knelt and, at a signal, released the baby olive ridleys to the sea. Everyone was cheering on the hatchlings as they raced (some crawled) toward the blue waters.

I told them that the survival rate is very small: only one in a thousand can survive the man-made and natural threats. But then a survivor can last more than a hundred years.

My word to the young ones: you may yet see her come back during your own lifetime: in 35-50 years, if she survies, after she has sexually matured, to lay down her eggs here where she was born,

A lady visitor talked to me after the releasing, and she said it was the first time her husband, a German, saw baby turtles, and he cried as he watched them swim out to sea.

Plenty of hatchlings expected to emerge from these nests in time for the Festival.

In previous years, our Pawikan Festival was held on 28 December.  This year it will be on 15 January, a Friday, so that school children can come and celebrate pawikan conservation. There may be plenty of hatchlings to be freed to the sea since many are expected to emerge before the festival day.

It's an appropriate gesture of hope for Year 2016: new life emergent from the dark sands with expectations to grow more than a hundred years.

Photos by the author.