Friday, November 15, 2013

A not so fortunate discovery in the Sulu Sea

After a short visit to the Philippines oldest mosque in Simunul, i spotted a sparkling white sandbar near the farther island of Tandu Bas. I asked the boatman and my company how long it will take us and was told it may take us half to 1 hour.

The boatman was saying we might not have enough fuel; 

We're already that close so I thought we might as well check it out. I suggested that we'll just scout some crude from the islands we'll pass by (which we did in LA).

Khen and company appeared warry of my intention, but thankfully agreed somehow. I could tell from their face that they were unsure of our security since no one has been to the island before.

From a distance of 250m away, the water was very shallow. We had to be very slow and careful so as not to break the boat's propeller. From there, I could see something floating, appearing as if a turtle flipped over. But then, It was too big though, and I could not confirm within myself if it were a turtle indeed.

We docked and took pictures. Then, we walked close to the object.

It is in fact a turtle, slaughtered. It's shell has been peeled, and chest opened. The organs are floating away from its stomach. 

Khen works for an NGO, and has contacts with the world wildlife foundation in the province so she reported it immediately.

We saw a number of dried skeletons close and realized this is not an isolated case. It has been ongoing and local fishermen have tolerated it (or at least none has reported it).

I knew there was something else to see. We walked around and found 2 more rotting turtles; one filled with maggots and another rotting just like the first. There were some more skeletons. All in all, we counted 9.

As per Khen who's a fisheries graduate, these Sulu green turtles grow something like a pearl in their chest. This seems to be the motive behind te killing (apart from the peeled shell in their backs).

Fortunately, i have some fb friends who are concerned citizens of Tawi Tawi, and upon seeing my post, took details and said they are reporting it to the local government. I hope they take action.

The sizes, mode of killing, and the count of the turtles are a worry.


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