Turtle Conservation Center

6:37 pm

Five miles of beach in Morong, Bataan. Not just for sunbathing and beach volleyball, but the nesting grounds of many momma turtles.

© Pia T.
We stayed a while and got to talking with Manolo, who runs the conservation center. Years ago, he used to be a fisherman and a poacher. Turtle eggs were a delicacy, and many people in the area found selling the eggs to be very profitable. Around that time, environmentalists started going around and educating the locals - convincing them to give up the poaching and start protecting them instead. It took a while, but many fishermen did give up poaching.

While talking to Manolo, one of the things I asked was whether he was worried at the time he decided to stop poaching - what would he do for a living to support his family? He answered simply, "Hindi naman. Kung kailangan, pwede naman maghanap ng ibang paraan." Loosely translated - "Not really. If it's necessary, [you] can find another way". He continued to support his family by taking construction jobs in the coming years.

When we visited, nesting season was over and the hatchery was only a third full - with 3000 eggs! Manolo said that just a few weeks earlier, the hatchery was filled with over 10,000 eggs!!! Sounds like a lot, but actually a turtles odds aren't so great; only 1 in a 1000 live long enough to make it to adulthood and reproduce.

Usually school groups stay for a night or two to volunteer, but the conservation center also welcomes volunteers who are available to help for extended periods of time. The type of work would depend on your timing with the nesting season. Volunteering earlier on in the season would involve night patrols (i.e. stalking momma turtles as they lay eggs) and relocating the eggs to the hatchery. Later on in the season would involve emotional chaos as you cry at the wonders of nature when the turtles hatch, and then cry again to say goodbye to babies you will never see again once you release them into the sea. If you're interested in volunteering here, let me know!

© Pia T.

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