Endangered green sea turtle ‘Liit’ released back to sea

Endangered green sea turtle ‘Liit’ released back to sea
Photo from Ang Taga, courtesy of CFAS Dean Robinsons Amihan Jr.

A FEMALE green sea turtle and a Hawksbill sea turtle were released back to the sea in Moalboal, Cebu on Tuesday morning, March 19, 2024, after undergoing rehabilitation.

The green sea turtle named “Liit,” weighing around 25 kilograms, was released in White Beach Moalboal by the faculty and students of Cebu Technological University-Moalboal Campus College of Fisheries and Allied Sciences (CFAS) and officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (DENR-TSPS) after five months of rehabilitation.

The Hawksbill sea turtle, weighing approximately 40 kilograms, was freed after a month of recovery.

Liit found herself in dire straits when she was turned over to CFAS by the DENR-TSPS Toledo City sub-station on October 4, 2023, eight days after she was found together with the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle.

Liit displayed distressing symptoms when found, including no vision, a head injury, and an uncoordinated swim.

“Kato siya, nabuta siya. Naa gyud tuy bu-ak iyang skull. Dili pud siya mukaon at that time (She was blind, and had a crack on her skull. She also did not eat),” said the dean of CFAS Robinson Amihan Jr.

It took a month of soft food, electrolyte drinks, and medicine for Liit to defecate and show “tiny portions of plastics” in her feces.

The Philippines is home to five of the seven sea turtle species in the world: Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Leatherback Turtle and Olive Ridley. All species are endangered and are on the IUCN Red List or the Turtle International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

Liit was by far the longest treated sea turtle of CFAS, as her development was inconsistent and she showed no sign of sight for three months.

This January, however, Liit showed signs of vision. On March 14, the CFAs staff tried to fill more water to the cemented-square tank of Liit to observe if she would dive deep and will not float.

“Ang among indication para ma-declare nga okay na siya for release kay mu-settle na siya sa bottom. Even si DENR mao sab ang gi-follow,” Amihan said.

(Our indication to say that she is okay for release is if she settles at the bottom of the tank. The DENR is also following this indication.)

An article published by Earth Island Institute Publication mentioned a similar situation in 2017 when a green sea turtle was seen floating and struggling to submerge in the vicinity of a pier close to Clearwater, Florida. The baby turtle, who weighed less than three pounds, was taken to rehabilitation for three weeks and was discovered to have ingested a plastic balloon that still had the ribbon on it. After the turtle defecated the balloon, its buoyancy improved.

The article stated that rescuers believed plastic debris caused his buoyancy issue -- a problem faced by sea turtles that is sometimes called “floating syndrome.”

In the case of Liit and the Hawksbill sea turtle, Amihan said the two made a “surprise arrival” at CFAS.

“Na shock na lang ko nga naa nay truck dira sa TSPS gikan Toledo. Naay duha ka turtle sulod,” said Amihan, as the TSPS informed their arrival right on the entrance gate of CTU-Moalboal.

(I was just shocked to see a truck of TSPS Toledo with two turtles onboard already at the campus.)

Despite being unprepared and uninformed, Amihan and the CFAS faculty did not turn down the two vulnerable turtles.

“Matawag nato na nga ‘insurgency of service’ since naa naman gyud ang sitwasyon. Even though kani nga facility is for research facility (tilapia, catfish) but since naa ta ani, we should cater kung unsa man ang nanginahanglan of tabang especially mga aquatic species. I think it is a part of CTU to be engaged with the industry but for us, since we are teaching, we are committed to enough to help, as long as makaya ra namu,” said Amihan.

But he said he did not know how the DENR-TSPS discovered the two turtles.

He said that according to the DENR, they tried to treat the two turtles but they do not have personnel who have knowledge on administering the medicines, and their last option was the CFAS.

The CFAS has a record of 100 percent survival rate and Liit was the fourth successfully treated sea turtle under Amihan’s residency as dean.

Amihan said, though, that their department is still unequipped to engage in treatment of wild aquatic species, stressing that their facility is for “research purposes only.”

“Pag-abot diri [two turtles], walay agas among water system, maong gipadali namo among budget nga P40,000. In terms anang pagrescue sa mga turtles, wala gyud na siyay budget,” Amihan added.

(When the two turtles arrived, we don’t have water, so we rushed the release of P40,000. In terms of rescuing sea turtles, we have not budget for it.)

Amihan also said that aside from the medicines brought by the DENR-TSPS for the turtles, some treatment was shouldered personally by the CFAS faculty. (CDF)


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