Pawikan is the Filipino word for ‘sea turtle’ and several species of these wonderful creatures live in Philippines waters. Although there are several organisations dedicated to conserving the sea turtle, the Pawikan Conservation Center in Bataan is unique because it is run by volunteers, many of whom were originally poachers.
The aim of the centre is to educate local people, particularly fishermen, about the turtles, and to give them the best possible start in life. Newly laid eggs are collected for a 10km stretch of coast and brought to the centre where they are buried in the hatchery. When the eggs hatch out the baby turtles are released into the sea. In this way the maximum number of turtles are produced from each clutch of eggs. The centre also cares for turtles that are sick or have been injured.
Luckily for us, a batch of Olive Ridley turtles had hatched the previous day and were ready for release. We therefore took the opportunity to ‘sponsor’ a turtle and release it in the sea. Sophia chose a particularly lively turtle which we named ‘Freddy’. We took him (or her) down to the beach and ‘rowing’ with his oversized front flippers Freddy was soon in the water. It was quite moving to see Freddy’s little head bobbing in the water several metres from the shore.
Turtles are long lived creatures and do not reach maturity until they are 25-30 years of age. Remarkably, they return to the same beach where they were hatched in order to lay their own eggs. Although Freddy has only a small chance of reaching adulthood, who knows? Perhaps Freddy will return to Pawikan Conservation Center one day.
To see more photos of our visit to the turtle sanctuary visit here.