By Mutya Valenzuela
Last March 28, HAPI National and HAPI Zambales visited Pawicare, a pawikan (sea turtle) hatchery in San Narciso, Zambales.
From October to March every year, sea turtle moms come out of the water to lay eggs in the town’s beaches! During this time, the Pawikan Rangers of Pawicare collect their eggs and bring them to the Pawikan Hatchery; they do this to protect the eggs from dogs and poachers. The Pawikan Rangers were former poachers who chose to ultimately save and protect the sea turtles.
The pawikan plays a huge part in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. As per Lalaine Riman of Pawicare: “Hindi ba po may mga ibang isda na sa seagrass nangingitlog? Kapag po mahaba na at malalago na ang mga seagrass, mag s-swing po iyan at pwedeng matangay ang mga itlog. Tumutulong po ang mga pawikan natin na i-trim iyan.“
(Aren’t there other fish that lay eggs in the seagrass? When the seagrass grow long, they will swing and the eggs could be carried away. Our turtles help trim that.)
The Pawicare Rangers’ job starts with looking for signs where the sea turtles lay their eggs. Once they gather the eggs, they bury them in the sands at the hatchery, then they label them according to the possible dates when they might hatch. Once the eggs hatch and the baby turtles emerge from the sand, the Rangers place each of them in a flat basin with water for at least 3 days to help them fully adapt to the environment. After that, the baby turtles are set free.
It takes pawikan 30 years to fully mature! And then once the females are ready to lay their eggs, they will go back to the place where they were born to give birth to the next generation. No matter how many miles away they are, the pawikan moms will always find their way back to their birthplace. Amazing!
To support Pawicare‘s advocacy, we bought them some biscuits and coffee. They wished for us to come back on March 29 to watch the eggs hatch, but due to the sudden announcement of the enhanced community quarantine in the capital, we won’t be witnessing that magical moment any time soon.