3 things you never knew about Pawikan conservation

Raring to do something different before summer ends? Have a fun and d meaningful break by supporting a local marine conservation program.

Earlier this year, me and my colleague Reby, visited the Pawikan Watchers in San Juan, La Union. Pawikan Watchers is a volunteer placement program that aims to help existing Philippines-based turtle conservation programs. Its pilot program in San Juan, La Union is a partnership between Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (CURMA), Route +63, and Save Philippine Seas. Its pilot run had a team of 7 (6 Filipinos and 1 Swiss).

Newly-hatched baby pawikans.
Newly-hatched baby pawikans.

Background: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources started the Pawikan Conservation program in the 1970s. Due to manpower and budget constraints, however, DENR was not able to collect enough data on the country’s marine turtle population, and nesting grounds. There was not enough data on many of the nesting grounds of the marine turtles – and this affected the pace of legislation to protect the turtles.

Basically, the Pawikan Watchers helps DENR collect and share data about sea turtles. Sounds easy? Here are 3 things you never knew about Pawikan Conservation programs:

1. Conservation entails a lot of walking in the dead of night.

Pawikans come ashore at night to lay eggs. This means that to be able to record how many nests there are and to protect the eggs from poachers (yikes!), conservationists have to do their beach patrols between midnight to around 4 AM. And not only will you be looking out for nests, you’ll have to be able to transfer the eggs to a safer location — the hatchery….

Transferring eggs at night,
Transferring eggs at night.

2. Transferring pawikan eggs is (literally) back breaking business.

Transferring eggs to the hatchery can get stressful, very fast. You dig the eggs up gently, using your arms and hands (think pawikan fins).

_DSC0106
Back breaking work.

_DSC0141

and you have to transfer the eggs in the exact position you found them:

Two person team to transfer from nest to hatchery to ensure eggs are in the exact same orientation as they were found.
Two person team to transfer from nest to hatchery to ensure eggs are in the exact same orientation as they were found.

and count them too.

Monitoring sheet.
Monitoring sheet.

at night.

*No data means no legislation gets passed. Mapping nesting grounds are essential for passing legislation to protect them. It’s like a more complicated way of saying “pics or it didn’t happen.”

Measuring pawikan tracks are just a few of the things a conservationist needs to tabulate.
Measuring pawikan tracks are just a few of the things a conservationist needs to tabulate.

3. And after they hatch, you have to release them into the sea immediately. Hatchlings need to be release immediately into the sea or else they will lose their “frenzy” or expend the energy they need to swim to open sea.

Hatchling
Baby Pawikan off to sea. (photo by Jason Marges of Pawikan Watchers)

Want to help out Pawikan Watchers and other conservation efforts? Contact: http://savephilippineseas.org/ to see how you can help. 🙂

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s