Lobregat releases 73 sea turtle hatchlings PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 January 2012 16:50

In line with his commitment to protect endangered mammals from extinction, Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday released to the sea 73 hatchings of hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) at La Vista del Mar, west of this city.

Lobregat said resort workers were surprised to see Thursday night the hawksbill hatchlings crawling their way into the sea, some even lost their way and crept into the kitchen of La Vista del Mar. This prompted the workers to gather the hatchlings and placed them inside a container prior to their release.

“The La Vista workers contacted me about these hatchlings and I immediately called up the authorities concerned to have these critically endangered hawksbill hatchlings released into the sea,” the mayor said, adding that it was the third time a hawksbill sea turtle laid eggs on the beach of La Vista.

“This is a new beginning and a good start for the year. This release only shows that we in Zamboanga City are concerned with preserving endangered species as a result of our awareness campaign through information dissemination,” Lobregat explained.

It was believed that there could be more sea turtle eggs unhatched and buried on the beach of La Vista. It the case of the discovered hatchlings, the mother hawksbill sea turtle laid the eggs about three weeks ago with 15 to 30 days incubation period.

The hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. Its appearance is similar to that of other marine turtles. It has a generally flattened body shape, a protective carapace, and flipper-like arms, adapted for swimming in the open ocean.

Hawksbills mate biannually in secluded lagoons off their nesting beaches on remote islands throughout their range. Their mating season usually spans from April to November. After mating, females drag their heavy bodies high onto the beach during the night. They clear an area of debris and dig a nesting hole using their rear flippers. The female then lays a clutch of eggs and covers them with sand. A nest normally contains around 140 eggs. After the hours-long process, the female then returns to the sea.

The baby turtles, usually weighing less than 24 grams (0.85 oz) hatch at night after around two months. These newly emergent hatchlings are dark-colored, with heart-shaped carapaces measuring around 2.5 centimeters (0.98 in) long. They instinctively walk into the sea, attracted by the reflection of the moon on the water (possibly disrupted by light sources such as street lamps and lights). While they emerge under the cover of darkness, baby turtles that do not reach the water by daybreak are preyed upon by shorebirds, shore crabs, and other predators.

Present during the release of the hawksbill hatchlings were Councilor Nonong Guingona, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer Rey Gonzales, City Veterinarian Mario Ariola together with the representatives from the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB). — Vic Larato