Identifying the green turtles of Apo ISLAND
Apo Island lies in the middle of the Mindanao Sea, off the south-eastern coast of Negros Island. It hosts one of the best green turtle snorkelling experiences in the Philippines. In 2016 LAMAVE started providing support to the Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape Management Board, to understand how the turtle population use the water of this protected area.
APO ISLAND PROTECTED LANDSCAPE AND SEASCAPE (AIPLAS)
In August 9, 1994, Apo Island was declared a National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) area under Presidential Proclamation No. 438, creating the island as Protected Seascape and Landscape. Today, the management is under the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), which comprises local government units, academics, and the local communities under various organisations.
ASSESSING THE TURTLE POPULATION
During in-water surveys the team have been using photo-identification as a minimally invasive technique to collect baseline data on the local turtle population; adding this data to an existing database of the turtles seen on the island. Each turtle can be recognised by the scutes on the side of its head.
Identifying each turtle allows the team to conduct focal follow studies to investigate any impact the tourism might be having on individuals. We can study whether the turtle’s behaviour changes once tourists are in close proximity, for example if we study its breathing rate with and without tourists present we can see if this increases or decreases, or, whether the turtle swims away when a tourist approaches.
IMPROVING THE TOURISM EXPERIENCE AND ENSURING ITS LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY
In addition to dedicated behavioural surveys, LAMAVE aims to raise awareness about the unique habitat and history of Apo Island and its amazing biodiversity, through dedicated interpretation materials and campaigns such as Their Future Our Future (TFOF), which champions sustainable marine wildlife in the Philippines.
Watch "Can't Touch This", the TFOF video starring the Apo Island Snorkel Equipment Rental and Guiding Association (AISERGA).