This photo taken on January 20 shows three dead giant Olive Ridley marine turtles that were found abandoned on the shores of Bakong, Simunul Island in Tawi-Tawi by its captors during a manhunt conducted by policemen against local poachers. Only 3 of 17 dead turtles, whose battered heads were believed to have been hit with a blunt object, were brought in by banca (boat) due to their large size. The turtles are reportedly being sold by local fishermen to Chinese poachers. GMA News

Philippines: 17 endangered sea turtles found dead in Tawi-Tawi
By Elizabeth Marcelo, 31st January 2014;

Local authorities recovered 17 dead Olive Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), an endangered species, on the shore of Brgy. Bakong, Simunul Island in Tawi-Tawi earlier this month.

A photo sent to GMA News Online by a concerned resident shows cracks on the heads of the turtles, an indication that they were intentionally killed by their captors, who managed to evade authorities. The photo was taken on Jan. 20.

In a phone interview, the photo sender, who refused to be identified for security reasons, said the illegal practice of catching and selling sea turtles has been going on in their village for “quite a long time” and the local government is doing nothing to address it.

“I believe may protector ang mga tao na ito para ganito ka-lakas ang loob nila [na] lapastanganin ang mga yaman dagat dito na paubos na,” the witness, an environmentalist and a teacher on Simunul Island, said.

Wala po sila (local government) ginagawa and that’s what bothers me a lot,” the source said.

According to the witness, six turtle shells were also found along the shore a week before the 17 turtles were found dead on Jan. 20.

The source added that on Nov. 22, 2013, more than 90 giant turtle shells, also called “stuff”, were seized from a vessel bound for Zamboanga owned by a local businessman. She said the local government did nothing about the incident.

“The local government told us that they will conduct an investigation and even a hearing, e hanggang ngayon wala naman nangyayari,” the witness said.

The source said the selling of turtle meat and stuff (shell) is rampant on their island, with prices ranging from P5,000 to P10,000 for a kilogram of turtle meat.

Shells sell from P60,000 to P100,000 depending on their size, the source said.

The source could not give information on individuals or groups behind the illegal trade, but quoted local fisherfolk as saying Chinese businessmen were the usual buyers of turtle meat and shells.

Mga Chinese (businessmen) po pero me contact sila sa local (businessmen). Gaya yung last November na nahuli, local businessman ang owner ng vessel pero ang client nila Chinese,” the source said.

The source added locals are concerned about the diminishing population of the sea turtles and cooperate with authorities to curb the illegal practice. “In fairness po sa mga local dito sa Simunul never po sila nag-eengage sa ganyan.”

GMA News Online is still trying to get the side of the local government of Tawi-Tawi as of this post.

Source: GMA News Online