By Teng Lauban Datu
Cotabato City Bureau Chief .
KORONADAL City — Some 528 baby sea turtles made their way back home after being released to their natural habitat at Barangay Lumasal, Maasim, Saranggani late last Friday.
The olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) were born at Maasim Pawikan Hatchery, the biggest number of hatchlings recorded since its establishment in 2015.
Nilo Tamoria, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-12) regional executive director, spearheaded the release of pawikan hatchling together with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Kiamba, Forester Jesus Boja, Chief of Coastal Resource and Foreshore Management Section, Felix Robles and Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Maasim.
“It is much better that the release of pawikan hatchlings should be done late in the afternoon to ensure greater chances of their survival. Accordingly, only one percent of the released sea turtles is expected to survive into adulthood,” said Tamoria.
For his part, Robles shared that a female pawikan released will return to their birthplace to also lay their eggs in the next 20 to 25 years.
“We let pawikan hatchlings to crawl into sea. It will help them remember where they come from. They imprint on the unique magnetic field of their birthplace and the female ones use this information to return to their birthplace to nest,” Forester Robles said.
The shores of Baranggay Lumasal, Maasim, Saranggani and nearby communities are the nesting sites of sea turtles.
The coastal residents have increased awareness on the importance of sea turtles to the coastal ecosystems.
“The pawikan eggs come from the adjacent Baranggays. Our community is aware that if they see pawikan laying eggs, they immediately send the eggs to the hatchery so that the caretakers of the hatchery area will transplant the eggs,” Menro of Maasim Alejandra Sison said. (with reports from denr xii)