Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hawksbill that ate plastic,
released in Jagna town

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, Oct 27, (PIA) – Justin Timberlake (JT) finally swims out to the open sea, where he should belong, perhaps never to come back. That alone, leaves a lump in the people’s throats.

But, everybody has learned to love JT, a hawksbill turtle which has endeared a community in Jagna town for the last four months since his rescue. Nad then, they also knew someday, somehow, the fact still holds: What goes around comes around, all the way back around. 

What Goes Around…

No, JT is not the American pop-singer who sang his version of Ringo Starrs’ What Goes Around Comes Around.

Although, he may just be saying that on his last heave before gliding deep into the reefs of the Marine Protected Area in barangay Can-tagay.

JT happens to be another of the critically endangered animals in Bohol; a sea turtle which has earned the affection of men and women of Physalus, a Jagna-based non government organization implementing Large Marine Vertebrate (LAMAVE) Project in Bohol.

Lamave is an international research project which aims to assess the abundance and distribution of marine mammals, whale shark and manta, especially in the Bohol sea and adjacent waters.

More than that, the project also aims to raise environmental awareness throughout the local population as well as restore and rehabilitate in collaboration government, civil society stranded wild animals, says the LAMAVE facebook page.

A fisherman found JT, with a faint trace of life, helplessly floating in the sea waters of Can-upao Jagna last June 18.

With a growing awareness now raised in Bohol, the finder reported to conservationists who roused a network of marine vertebrate rescuers including Bohol Alliance of Non Government Organizations (BANGON) and the town agricultural officer.

The group turned over the visibly dying sea turtle to Physalus for proper care and therapy started immediately.

JT was very sick, it had a lung infection and gastric problem which made it lose its appetite so the turtle did not eat for the first few weeks to almost a month, Physalus’ Dr. Alessandro Ponzo shared in their after-incident report.  

The turtle weighed 4.2 kilograms when rushed for the marine vertebrate rescue and has been administered with vitamins and antibiotics for the first 2 months by the Physalus medical team headed by Dr. Ponzo. 

Along with Bohol Rescue Unit for Marine Wildlife (BRUMW), the Municipal Agricultural Office and Jagna local government unit, JT was taken cared of 24/7 for more than 4 months.

Expert marine biologists wanted to make sure of the successful rehabilitation of the animal, so JT has to be tube fed for 2 months and then slowly fed with whole squids.

Rehabilitation also includes changing fresh water in the pool every other day and then slowly putting in saltwater later for the turtle to acclimatize, adds Physalus’ Tcha Pahang.

After two months, JT’s stool examination showed plastic bags and plastic balloons, Physalus said.

Plastic garbage: when it goes around, it comes around

The plastic could have caused the obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, preventing the animal from feeding and debilitating the animal until it weakened, Dr. Ponzo diagnosed.

Turtles commonly eat jellyfish and squid. Floating plastic garbage resembles these kinds of food, and these animals could easily get confused, Dr. Ponzo explained.

Plastic ingestion is one of the major threats of marine wildlife in the world, he cites.

In Jagna, where there is a good waste management program implemented is getting national attention, the case of a turtle ingesting plastic highlights the need to put up the pressure on proper disposal, admits Amiela Balaba, town information officer.

Since last year, Jagna has launched an underwater survey and clean up project and it’s ongoing. Huge bulk of garbage, including plastics were removed from under the seas of 9 coastal barangays with Marine Protected areas for starters, according to her.

The campaign for avoiding of throwing garbage and plastics especially has been spearheaded by the MAO-Fishery division, she continued, even as she hinted the aggressive campaign will soon breach the five more coastal barangays and then off to the inland and mountain barangays.

Now with planned eco-tourism activity that topbills its network of marine protected areas and whale watching activities, garbage floating out to the sea does not auger well with the plan, she stressed.

It’s a question of going into tourism and keeping our seas as clean for our people to earn in tourism, she stresses.

There’s a huge chance that we still have a lot of sea turtles and marine vertebrates in our seas, but according to our coastal resource Management consultant Jeremy Horowitz, there is still considerable garbage underwater, Balaba admits.

Horowitz, according to the information officer is bringing along his expertise and expensive equipment just to get Jagna’s CRM program rolling and the program benefiting the people.

JT goes around, will it come around?

After a while, JT showed signs of recovery until it became very active, consuming 10-12 whole squids a day and bloating his weight to 5.75 kilos, on the day of the release.
JT was released on Friday October 21, 2011 around 8:30 AM, at the Marine Protected Area of Brgy. Cantagay, Jagna Bohol, Pahang said.

Witnessing the simple event were The Physalus Team, BRUMW members, DENR’s Juliet Paler, BEMO’s Leonarda Vallejos, BIDEF representatives, KAYAKASIA team, Jagna MAO, Cantagay Brgy. Captain Joel Rosario, Jeremy Horowitz and Mayor Fortunato Abrenilla along with Cantagay residents.

Freed without tags, people may not know if JT remains in the waters off the town as hawksbills are known to go incredible distances to migrate from their feeding sites to nesting their areas, according to National Geographic.

And so, with heavy heart, Jagna-anons watch as JT is swallowed by the depths, but for the conservationists, marine wildlife would only have one home. (30) 

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