Every Turtle Counts. Rescue & Release

A green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) was released to the Bohol Sea on the 23rd of January after it was found floating in the waters of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental in the third week of September. The turtle was released by LAMAVE Researcher and Vet Dr Alessandro Ponzo in collaboration with Silliman University Institute of Environmental & Marine Sciences (IEMS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP).

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The Philippines is home to green sea turtles, which play an important role in marine ecosystems by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing key habitat for other marine life, helping to balance marine food webs and facilitating nutrient cycling from water to land. This species of turtles is listed as endangered (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which brings to attention the health of the ocean at risk and highlights that the survival of every green sea turtle is vital.

The green sea turtle was found floating in the sea on the coast of Zamboanguita and brought nearly lifeless by local residents to the MCP station. It was brought to IEMS where researchers and students were taking care of it together with LAMAVE. According to the researcher and vet Dr Alessandro Ponzo, the green sea turtle was suffering from a lung infection, also known as pneumonia, which is the infection of one or both lungs and can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. The treatment included antibiotic and fluid therapy together with the provisioning of fresh food daily. After four months of rehabilitation, the animal, named Beyoncé by local researchers for its tendency to rest with its posterior part upwards, regain physical strength and was able to feed on her own.

Before release, LAMAVE researchers took photo-identification pictures of the side of the head and together with the DENR personnel recorded the size and weight of the green turtle. Each individual turtle has a unique scute patterns on the side of the head that allows for individual identification. This way, researchers and members of the public can identify and track the movement of the turtles across the Philippines.

The release was successfully guided by Dr Alessandro Ponzo and Marine Biologist Jean Utzurrum from Silliman University, in partnership with MCP and DENR. The turtle was active and swum away just after it reached the water. It roused the attention and excitement of those present who observed the release. The successful rescue of the turtle, the rehabilitation and released took over 4 months and the coordinated effort of many institutions, without whom this would not have been possible, including DENR CENRO Dumaguete, Silliman University, IEMS, MCP and the researchers at LAMAVE.