THE Aboitiz Foundation released yet another batch of hawksbill turtle hatchlings from nests laid at the Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, Davao City.
It was sometime in July 2003 when the first hawksbill turtle nest was discovered by a resident and reported to erstwhile Davao City Councilor Leonardo R. Avila III as the councilor at that time was putting up an experimental artificial coral reef in the area during that time.
What followed was a series of articles by SunStar Davao that led to greater awareness of the people in the region about sea turtle conservation that no less than the Pawikan Conservation Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at that time acknowledge as a major breakthrough in sea turtle conservation awareness.
Before long, coastal villages all over Mindanao were discovering, taking care, and releasing hatchlings in celebratory fashion. People became aware that sea turtles are endangered species and that there is the need to release the hatchlings immediately instead of taking care of them and releasing them when they have grown a bit, causing greater damage because by then, the turtles have learned to rely on humans to feed them.
There were lessons upon lessons that followed as people suddenly became aware that sea turtles are being threatened even by their own neighbors.
The councilor has left this physical world, and no one has yet stepped onto the big shoes he left behind. Fourteen years hence, the turtles are still nesting at the Cleanergy Park, and that is good news, indeed. Except that, we are also aware that turtles are still being slaughtered somewhere else.
There is the need to reinforce awareness by the community, not just in the pageantry of the release but in informing coastal residents of their roles as what has been embarked on by councilor Avila 14 years ago.
The sea turtles need us more than ever, with villages returning to their old ways of slaughtering turtles and massive harvest by poachers. We are lucky to chance on these creatures during our lifetime. Let us not deprive our children's children of that experience.
But more than that, let us not forget the role that these gentle sea creatures play in our world. As the Sea Turtle Conservancy website reads: "Sea turtles are part of two ecosystems, the beach/dune system and the marine system. If sea turtles went extinct, both the marine and beach/dune ecosystems would be negatively affected. And since humans utilize the marine ecosystem as a natural resource for food and since humans utilize the beach/dune system for a wide variety of activities, a negative impact to these ecosystems would negatively affect humans."
By the way, cementing those beaches spells doom for them.