Home is the turtle
- Joseph Cortes () - November 25, 2006 - 12:00am
Turtles are among the oldest existing animals on earth, predating even lizards and snakes. Yet all that time on earth may go to naught since man has become their No. 1 predator. As man continues to develop the environment to meet his needs, he pushes many animal and plant species to extinction.

When the Anvaya Cove project team began the development of this seaside leisure community, it took careful steps to ensure that any construction will have minimal impact on the environment. Ilingin Cove, the two-kilometer stretch of beach, which serves as the community’s swimming beach, is the natural nesting ground of olive ridley turtles. The project team exerted efforts to coordinate with concerned government agencies to assist it in developing sustainable programs that will protect the turtle habitat.

In charge of handling all environmental concerns for Anvaya Cove is engineer Paolo O. Viray. It is one of Viray’s duties to ensure that the nesting sites of Anvaya’s turtles are preserved and, if in danger, protected. This undertaking has earned him the charming moniker "Pawikan Man" among the staff at Anvaya Cove.

The job is really that simple. During the turtle’s nesting months from September to February, all staff and security personnel are expected to monitor the nesting behavior of turtles, noting down their nests, and protecting the nests from predators.

However, to gain the expertise to perform this task, Viray and some key personnel at the site had to undergo extensive seminars on turtle care at Sabah Parks in Malaysia. Here in the Philippines, they coordinated with the Parks and Wildlife Bureau for appropriate training.

Of all marine turtle species in the Philippines, only the olive ridley turtle nests at Ilingin Cove. Viray notes that turtles nest where they were hatched. So, the turtles that nest on this beach were also hatched here.

The olive ridley turtles nests as many as six times during the nesting season, with each nesting producing anywhere from 100 to 120 eggs. It takes the eggs about two months before hatching.

During the nesting season, the turtles mate with their partners out at sea, just around 20 to 40 kilometers to the coast. They return to the shore every two weeks to nest.

Viray says in their first year at the Anvaya Cove project, the team was able to identify four nesting sites. This year, they have already identified six nesting sites, with probably more discovered as the nesting season progresses. He expects their first hatchlings to emerge by December or January.

After the nesting sites are discovered in the morning, the staff determine whether the nests need protection. If they are too close to the shoreline, the nest may need to be moved to a safer area or to a hatchery. However, if the turtle has chosen a safe place, fencing is placed around the nests to prevent dogs, rats or monitor lizards from raiding the nests for food.

Humans are also considered predators of turtles since many fishermen often make a living selling turtle eggs to those who eat turtle eggs for good health.

If they are able to catch the turtle nesting, they need to determine whether the animal is already tagged. If not, then they coordinate with local environmental officials for this task.

With the forthcoming completion of the Pawikan Bar & Grille, the Club’s first restaurant, a number of educational modules are being readied to inform Anvaya Cove residents of conservation efforts at the site. The club will have programs for children, which will inform them on the site’s turtle population. Likewise, specific restrictions are being imposed on properties that face the beach, since bright lights in the evening could discourage the nesting of the turtles.

Since the beach is free from turtles during the summer months, there is no fear that residents will affect the environment. The beach will still be open to the public during the nesting season once appropriate measures and regulations are identified to protect the turtles and their habitat. All these efforts are part of Anvaya Cove’s commitment to protect the natural environment, which is the site’s greatest asset.

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