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3 Dead Marine Turtles and Dugong Sightings Reported in Sarangani Bay

 

SARANGANI PROVINCE – May 03, 2019. The hotline numbers of the Office of the Protected Area Superintendent – Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (PASu-SBPS) received pawikan stranding reports from the Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) XII, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Despite the scattered locations of the reported strandings, these reports were validated on-site through the coordinated efforts of the DENR, PASu-SBPS, LGUs, ECPC, and BFAR, and confirmed that all three (3) reported pawikans were dead.

The first report arrived at 8:00 in the morning through a text message, whose contents read of a stranded marine turtle or “pawikan” in Brgy. Suli, Kiamba, Sarangani Province. turtle1The stranding was reported by ECPC in-house veterinarian and environmentalist Dr. Roy O. Merjorada. Accordingly, the Office of the PASu-SBPS immediately contacted the DENR Field Office of CENRO Kiamba to dispatch the proper personnel and validate the stranding. The PASu-SBPS Office also informed the MENRO Kiamba and Suli Brgy. Captain Melanie Balanag of the incident. Field validation revealed that the stranded turtle was a dead Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), with an open wound in the base of its left fore flipper. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Olive Ridley Turtle is a Vulnerable Species with a decreasing population trend worldwide.

The second report was sent via Facebook messages from BFAR XII Personnel to PASu-SBPS Staff Quennie Lyn C. Arellano and Wilhelm Heinrich V. Cabe, which informed of three (3) dugongs sightings in Kingford Beach, Brgy. Tambler, General Santos City. Beach-goers who were bathing in Kingford Beach saw the Dugongs (Dugong dugon), and reported them to BFAR XII. Heeding the report, the PASu-SBPS Office contacted LGU-Gensan ENRO Staff Katherine Lopez Bitco and ECPC Dr. Mejorada. BFAR XII Charmaine Escleto instructed their colleagues, who were among the Beach-goers, to take photos of the dugongs for documentation. LGU-Gensan Katherine Lopez Bitco also arrived at Kingford Beach to validate the sightings. The IUCN Red List classifies Dugongs as a Vulnerable Species, and their habitats are limited to shallow coastal waters home to their preferrred food: Seagrass.

The third report came via text message at 3:00 in the afternoon: turtle2a turtle washed ashore in Queen Tuna Park, Brgy. Dadiangas South, General Santos City. The stranding was reported by DENR CENRO Glan personnel Hesed Jebs Carisma, and was confirmed through another correspondence addressed to PASu-SBPS Staff Gary John Cabinta. In response, the Office of the PASu-SBPS contacted the ECPC and LGU-Gensan Katherine Bitco. Field validation by ECPC Personnel revealed that the stranded turtle was a decomposed female Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) that had a missing right fore flipper and spilled intestines. The IUCN Red List classifies the Green Sea Turtle as an endangered species, with a decreasing global population. Considering the turtle’s rotting condition, the PASu-SBPS Office, ECPC, and LGU-Gensan agreed to take morphometric measurements of the dead turtle before burying it.

The fourth report arrived by text message from CENRO Glan Jebs Carismaturtle3 at 3:59 in the afternoon, and announced another turtle stranding in Zone 5, Brgy. Bula, General Santos City. The PASu-SBPS Office took action by dispatching its own personnel to the area, and reported the incident to ECPC, LGU-Gensan, and BFAR XII. BFAR XII Charmaine Escleto relayed that the DENR CENRO Gensan had also sent personnel on-site to document the stranding. The on-site investigation revealed that the stranded specimen was most likely a male Olive Ridley Turtle. The cause for uncertainty was due to the turtle’s highly emaciated condition, and its carapace/shell was heavily covered with algae.

The foregoing events proved that the implementation of a PASu-SBPS Hotline will mean better chances for marine megafauna sightings and strandings to be reported not only by government agencies, but more importantly, local citizens and stakeholders. (by: Nadzla Adal, SBPS Megafauna Response Team, 2019)

 

 

 

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