A barricade allowed guests to safely watch the 62 hatchlings from a distance.

Rooting for Channing Turtle

After years of being invited to Anvaya Beach and Nature Club’s Turtle Release project, I finally made it! Thanks to my Tita Lisa who is a member of Anvaya Cove, I was part of the 2016 event that aims to bring awareness about turtle conservation.

The stage next to the breakfast buffet. The program included talks on environmentalism and sea turtle preservation, games for the kids, and arts and crafts booths.
There was a short program before the turtle release. Guest speakers included Nilo Ramoso, Wildlife Conservation Specialist; Manolo Ibias, Chairman of Bantay Pawikan’s Bataan branch; Raymond Sandoval of Anvaya Beach and Nature Club; and Kate Lim, Environmental Officer of Ayala Land Premier.

Every year, female pawikans (Olive Ridley sea turtles) dig a hole in the sands of Morong Beach at nighttime to lay their eggs before returning to the ocean. Trained Anvaya employees and members of environmental groups would build a protective net around the nest and wait for the eggs to hatch. The hatching usually happens around February, and by that time Anvaya club members may come to watch as the baby turtles return to the ocean.

Thank you, Tita Lisa, for letting me tag along!
With Tita Lisa’s daughter Monica

The event used to be called “Adopt a Turtle,” where each guest is assigned one turtle that they can name as they please before personally releasing the turtle to the shores. This year they have a stricter policy where only trained volunteers are allowed to touch the hatchlings, while the guests can only watch from a barricaded section.

A barricade allowed guests to safely watch the 62 hatchlings from a distance.
At around 7:45 a.m. the baby sea turtles were set free. I named two feisty ones Myrtle and Channing Turtle.

While some guests are disappointed at this stricter scheme, I’m relieved at Anvaya’s more responsible eco-tourism. I remember an environmental article I read that said something to the likes of: “If you—without proper volunteer training—can easily pay to handle an endangered plant or animal, then that’s irresponsible tourism.” I’ve heard of personal stories where members have accidentally dropped a hatchling and caused it injury, or children mishandling the fragile baby turtles.

Their natural instinct is to follow the light, which is towards the shore.

According to Bataan’s Bantay Pawikan Conservation Center, only 1% of the hatchlings will survive. As they crawl to the ocean, their developing brains will imprint the magnetic signals of the sand, which will lead the female survivors to return to the exact same spot in 25 years in order to lay eggs.

How to help preserve the pawikan. Click to enlarge.
Almost there! Some were faster than the others, some seemed confused and waddled sideways. According to Bantay Pawikan, out of the 62 hatchlings, only 1% will make it alive. Others will get devoured by bigger creatures, others will not be able to adapt to the great big ocean, while many will be poached or mishandled by fishermen and clueless tourists.

Onlookers rooting for the 1% survival rate to increase.

Would you want to be the person responsible for decreasing their chances of survival—all for the sake of getting a selfie with a baby sea turtle?

Even if the guests could no longer “adopt” a turtle, I could hear people naming the turtles as they waddled towards the water. We had Donatello, Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo as a nod to the TMNT. Others named them after pop culture references like Han Solo.

The actual eggs where the hatchling came from. The green netting is one of the safety barricades you’ll find around the beach. It’s where the turtles lay their eggs every year.
Kate was here. Finding my center in the arts and crafts booth.

When I spotted two feisty turtles seemingly battle towards an imaginary finish line, I silently named them Myrtle and Channing Turtle. I pray they are part of the 1% who would come back to this exact same spot in 25 years.

Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club is located at SBMA-Morong Road, Morong, Bataan.

February 25, 2015