PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The Philippine Navy in Palawan province announced on Sunday it had recovered 140 pieces of chemically preserved marine turtles hidden and buried in the shores of a coastal village in Balabac town awaiting shipment to the turtle black market trade.
The marine turtles, all hawksbill species, were reportedly wrapped in plastic bags filled with the preservative formaldehyde and buried in the sands in Sitio Mansalangan, Barangay Sebaring, Balabac, according to Lt. Ariesh Climacosa, spokesperson for the Naval Forces West.
Seven live turtles were also recovered in a secluded mangrove area. Authorities decided to free the turtles immediately after they were recovered at the port of Balabac, he said.
Climacosa said authorities had not yet determined who were responsible for the incident but cited information from local residents that the turtles were awaiting a buyer.
Also recovered from the area was a roll of turtle net locally called “pukot.”
The recovery was made on Nov. 30 by members of the Naval Station Narciso del Rosario headed by Lt. Kiram Sadava, PN, and the Balabac police, Climacosa said.
The area where the incident took place is in the same general area in Balabac where other incidents of illegal sea turtle trade activities had been reported. Authorities have determined that the turtles were often gathered by locals and sold to illegal Chinese traders.
Last week, a Palawan regional trial court imposed stiff fines against nine Chinese nationals arrested for turtle poaching near Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the disputed Spratlys, an area which authorities believe is a trading post where Chinese buyers and Filipino turtle suppliers often meet to conduct illegal trade.
Hawksbill turtles, so named due to their hawk-like head features, are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered and close to extinction.
Compared to other endangered species like the green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles don’t grow so big and are considered ideal sizes for wall ornaments and decor. Redempto D. Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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