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Marine Turtles: Here today, gone tomorrow?
by Henrylito D. Tacio

            Unfortunately, they are also the most endangered and threatened by humans. They are hunted for meat and leather. Their eggs are taken for food, often for their aphrodisiac properties. Their nesting sites are given over for development. They end up being crushed by dredges, run over by pleasure boats, poisoned by pollution, strangled by trash and drowned by fishing lines and nets. The Philippines has one of the world’s protected habitats and sanctuaries of the endangered marine turtle. They are called, appropriately enough, the Turtle Islands, a group of nine islands along the border with Malaysia that used to be a favored weekend destination of the British colonialists and residents of the old North Borneo (now Sabah). Six of the islands--Baguan, Taganak, Lihiman, Boan, Langaan and the Great Bakkungan belong to the Philippines while three--Gulisaan, Selingan and Bakkugan Kechil--are owned by Malaysia. There are only eight known species of marine turtles. Five of them can be found in the Philippines, mostly in the Turtle Islands. These are the Green Sea (known scientifically as Chelonia mydas); Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata); Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and Leatherback (Dermocheyls coriacea). The three other species are Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), Flatback (Chelonia depressa) and Black Sea (Chelonia agassizi).

Endangered species
            All eight species are listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which means the trade of these species and subspecies is strictly ’’prohibited except for educational, scientific or research and study purposes.’’ The Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has also classified the eight as endangered. That is, ’’their population is in danger of extinction and whose survival is unlikely if the causal factors continue to operate.’’ Despite sincere efforts by the government and environmentalists to prevent the destruction of the marine turtle population, the gathering of turtle eggs and trading of stuffed turtles in souvenir shops continue unabated. ’’Conservation of marine turtles should be the concern of all Filipinos. As a citizen, you can do your part in discouraging the sale, collection, or the killing of sea turtles by not buying these or products made from turtles,’’ says a Filipino environmentalist.

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