I am doing some self-study and research about pawikans these past few days and found out lots of interesting facts about these cute creatures.
These lessons I want to share with you and hopefully would make us reflect on how we can better protect, conserve and nurture these sea turtles.
25 Interesting Facts About Pawikans
English Name: Sea Turtles
Filipino Name: Pawikan
Local names: Payukan, Tuod, Talisayon, Karahan, Bulawon and Galangan.
Here are 25 lessons I learned about sea turtles
(I also place some comments/notes on some entries):
1. There are 7 species of Pawikans in the whole world. Philippines has five, namely Green Sea, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and Leatherback turtle. The other two are the flatback turtle and Kemp’s Ridley turtle.
2. There is a difference between a pawikan (sea turtles) and a pagong (tortoise). Turtles have four flippers (for swimming) while tortoise has four legs (for walking, duh?).
3. You CAN’T get a pawikan from another place to repopulate a certain place because they will always go back to their birth Talk about loyalty.
4. Pawikans have a good sense of smell. The don’t have a sense of hearing and so rally greatly on their superb instinct. They don’t like the smell of cigarette and are really disturbed when they happen to smell it. Now, think about this when you flick that cigarette butt to the shore or light that smoke on the shore.
5. Pawikans don’t need dentists ‘coz don’t have teeth. They use they powerful snout to tear down or crush their food. Actually their first activity is to tear down the shell they are in.
6. Pawikans do make a weeping sound during courtship, mating and laying eggs. They also make that sound when they are being killed.
7. Sex is dependent on temperature of sand. 29C and up would produce female hatchlings, 29C below would be male.
8. Turtle eggs looks like pingpong balls, only soft. (According to a former turtle egg-eater, they really taste good.) Please don’t eat or even taste a turtle egg.
9. Hatchlings/ baby turtles will emerge from the nest after about 40-75 days.
10. Hatchlings should be released immediately after emergence from the nest. Release is usually done after sunset of before sunrise to minimize threat. If immediate release is not possible, do not put the hatchlings in a container with water. They should be placed in a container cushioned with soft sand and covered with a damp cloth and kept in a cool, dark, quiet and safe place.
11. One unique feature is “imprinting.” As soon as the hatchlings crawl on the beach they somehow memorize the sand where they crawled on. If the turtle is female, she will return to the same beach when it is time to nesting. This should make resort developers to think twice on building that damn building by the beach.
12. Related to #9. There is this “swimming frenzy” wherein they taste the water upon entering the sea thereby creating a unique memory of the chemical “fingerprint” of their nesting waters which they use to find their way back home 25-50 years later. Males after tasting the water will not return to the shore again.This should make beach resort owners to think twice when applying for foreshore lease agreement.
13. Hatchlings feed on planktons. Yes, they have the same food need with the gentle giants- whalesharks.
14. A group of hatchlings only have 1% or less survival rate. Meaning for 100 hatchlings, only 1 or none will survive.
15. Pawikans have “lost years” from ages 5-20. Scientists don’t exactly know where they go. Of course, they are just out their on the ocean- feeding on jellyfish, sponges, soft corals, shells and crustaceans or they become food for larger predators like sharks.
16. By ages 30-50 they are now ready for courtship and mating. This happens near the nesting site. Which is where the female turtle was hatched. Now, unless you’re parents are pawikans don’t listen when they tell you that you can marry by age 50.
17. They enter a state of nirvana when laying eggs. A female pawikan will nest 3-5 times per nesting period, laying around 90-120 eggs with 2-5 years interval after the next nesting period. That’s atleast 500 eggs in a matter of 5 years.
18. Among the threats of pawikans are- loss of habitat due to coastal development or building of beach resorts and degradation of natural habitat by erosion or siltation because of poor mountain management like illegal logging or mining, destruction of coral reefs and sea grass beds and of course destructive fishing methods. They are continually threatened when we buy products like turtle eggs, meat and guitar made by carapace.
19. Sea turtles can live 60-120 years. And unlike humans, the more they mature, the more beautiful they become.
20. Sea turtles’ poop serve as fertilizer for seagrass beds. These seagrass beds are needed by fishes and seacow or dugong. See, they are interconnected.
21. Turtles help in the propagation of corals too. They clean it and even replant them.
22. Marine Turtles in the Philippines can easily be identified by their carapace and head.
23. Their predators include crabs, birds, sharks, dogs, cats, ants, sea eagle, big fishes and of course humans.
24. Humans are the worst threat to marine turtles. Luckily, humans are the best ones to protect and nurture them. Now choose where to stand.
25. If we stop protecting them and their habitat, our grandkids might never see them again live. A live turtle is worth more than a dead one.
“I have been so privileged to swim with a turtle, saw it under my board while surfing, rescued lots of them, watched them nest and lay their eggs, release them back to the wild. These experiences I will cherish for life. But it doesn’t stop there. I want these to be experienced by my future kids and grandkids too.”
What Specific Actions Can I Do to Protect Pawikans?
1. Report any resort or establishment that takes a pawikan into captivity.
2. Have nothing to do with any pawikan product (meat, shell or egg) or by-product (combs, guitar case or bangles made of pawikan shells).
3. Avoid using plastics. 70& of it goes to the ocean. Plastic bags looks like jellyfish and are eaten accidentally by turtles.
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Thanks to Amihan sa Dahican Surf and Skim Team headed by Kuya George “Jun” Plaza for sharing very important notes about his encounters with these endangered species. Thanks also goes to the Winston Plaza who gave me some readings on sea turtles. You guys are the heroes of the Pawikans, may your tribe increase!
Pawikan Conservation Project Handbook by PAWB-DENR
Marine Turtles by WWF
Sea Turtle by Wikipedia