BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte (MindaNews/19 November) – Believe it not, but for Lowid Elgo, a fisherman in Barangay 10 in this town, the wounded pawikan or sea turtle that he rescued early this morning on his way back from a nightlong fishing trip seemed to ask for his help.
The turtle, which is likely an Olive Ridley or Pacific ridley based on pictures posted on the net, had two shallow wounds on its underside.
Elgo said he was rowing near the shore when he saw the turtle swimming beside his boat.
He said he stopped and tried to drive away the animal back to the deep but it went closer to his boat and tapped the vessel’s side with one of its flaps. He decided to load the turtle on the boat and bring it ashore to see what was wrong with it.
News about the “pawikan” sent many villagers especially children to the beach. They milled around the animal and discovered its wounds after an elderly man flipped it.
As if to affirm Elgo’s statement, the turtle tapped the bigger wound with its right anterior flap. “Hala, iyang gitudlo iyang samad,” (Oh my, it’s pointing at its wound) a woman in the crowd exclaimed.
Minutes later, a barangay employee came and poured an antiseptic medication on the wounds.
The elders in the crowd said they had to wait for personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as they were not sure if the turtle needed additional treatment.
Since the 1970s, a number of sea turtles had found their way into the shore of Barangay 10, which belongs to an area called Calanggaman (place of birds). Reports were rife however that villagers who caught the turtles sold them to people who crave for the meat of the endangered animal.
But according to Orlando Villareal, a fisherman and boat maker, the local residents have become aware that it is forbidden to hunt or harm sea turtles.
He said the locals would immediately report the presence of sea turtles in the area to the DENR.
“Olive ridleys occur through the Antilles, around the north coast of South America, in West Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australia and southeast Asia. There are also many important nesting and feeding grounds on the east Pacific coast from as far north as Canada to as far south as southern Peru,” according to information posted on the website of the World Wildlife Fund.
“Once slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands for meat and leather, olive ridleys have yet to recover from centuries of over-exploitation. While the species has a wide range, the number of important breeding sites is very restricted, so efforts to protect their major beaches are vital,” the WWF added. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)