Philippines: Recovering Sea Turtle Moves to Great Santa Cruz Island
By DENRIX RPAO, October 2015;
Six weeks after surgery, the recovering Green Sea Turtle Maamo was transferred today from the marine facility of the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology to an improvised holding facility within the lagoon in Great Santa Cruz Island, Zamboanga City.
“This successful rescue and rehabilitation of an endangered species is our statement that the DENR is serious in implementing the wildlife law,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) IX Regional Director Arleigh J. Adorable during the program that preceded the transfer of Maamo to a makeshift 5m x 5m enclosure in Great Sta Cruz Island.
It can be recalled that last August 24, the DENR responded to a call from the Municipal Environment Officer of Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay that local fishermen had brought an injured Green Sea Turtle to the PCG based in Naga. The Green Sea Turtle was suffering from severe head fracture, wound infection and decomposition and health deterioration. In August 25, the Sea Turtle underwent a 5-hour surgery administered by neurosurgeon Gaudencio Ligutom, veterinarian Anton Mari Lim and volunteers from Tzu Chi Foundation. The team concluded that the Sea Turtle was first hit by a boat propeller and subsequently received blunt force trauma to the head.
The Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. In the Philippines, it is illegal to collect, harm and/or kill Green Sea Turtles under Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”
DENR IX Protected Area Management and Biodiversity Conservation Section OIC-Chief and co-team leader for Maamo Watch Georgina Fernandez said that Maamo’s transfer to the island is crucial for her full recovery as it will allow Maamo to reacclimatize herself to her natural environment while still being monitored by the Maamo Watch team.
Maamo Watch Team is headed by Fernandez and DENR IX Ecosystem Management Specialist Michael dela Cruz and composed of doctors, veterinarians, biologists and field officers from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Zamboanga City.
Zamboanga Sibugay (ZS) Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Dante A. Oporto said that the immediate response to the Green Sea Turtle was the critical factor that led to her successful rescue and rehabilitation.
RD Adorable has expressed his gratitude to Dr. Ligutom, the Tzu Chi Foundation headed by Dr. Lim, the Local Government Unit of Zamboanga City headed by Mayor Beng Climaco, ZSCMST headed by Dr. Milavel Nazario, Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Veterinarian Elmer E. Nueva, the Philippine Coast Guard, PENRO Zamboanga Sibugay headed by PENRO Oporto, Zamboanga City CENRO headed by Ben Acana and the rest of the people involved in the immediate response to Maamo.
Dr. Ligutom, the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery on Maamo said that it was not a single effort. “Maamo wouldn’t have been able to make it without everyone’s heads together. Turtles are the farmers of the sea. It is my hope that this will encourage other communities to actively participate in biodiversity conservation,” Dr. Ligutom added.
DENR-IX Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Ronald D. Gadot said that the immediate response of the local fisherman and authorities is a result of the agency’s efforts in advocating for biodiversity conservation and protection.
Dr. Mario Arriola, Zamboanga City Veterinarian, committed to continue to extend support to the DENR in its wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
The Great Santa Cruz Island is one of two protected islands jointly called the Great and Little Santa Cruz Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape (GLSCIPLS). In 2000, GLSCIPLS was declared as one of the protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 through Presidential Proclamation No. 271.