Releasing an Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Releasing An Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle at Apo Island



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In early May some fishermen from Sibulan, a small community north of Dumaguete, brought a small hawksbill sea turtle to the Marine Lab. The turtle was in generally good health, though it had possibly been raised in captivity. After about two weeks of rehabilitation in one of the sea water tanks at the lab, the turtle was ready to be re-located to the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. As it turned out, Kris and Kristen Kerecman from my Peace Corps batch were in town visiting Dumaguete and Apo with their friend Emily from home, so we volunteered to take the turtle out to Apo.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    One of the giant clam rearing tanks at the Silliman Marine lab turned out to be a good place for the small hawksbill sea turtle to recover before we re-located it to the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. Kris and Kristen Kerecman from my batch were in town to visit Dumaguete and Apo so the turtle rescue was a nice extra-curricular activity for their trip.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    The turtle was pretty small considering a fully grown hawksbill can grow to the size of a coffee table. We named it "Gamay" (pronounced gam-eye), which means small in the Visayan dialect.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    We transferred Gamay to a small cooler to make the trip to Apo.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Before we transferred Gamay to the cooler, Marine Lab scientists put a small tag on the flipper so that the turtle could be tracked in the future. So Gamay's official name is "P21443".

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Unfortunately the cooler had some pretty substantial cracks in it and wouldn't hold water for the entire trip to Malatapay boat landing. Luckily we were able to take the blue Marine Lab truck (in the background) to take Gamay to the Apo boat, I doubt one of the public busses would have let us bring a live sea turtle in a sloshing cooler on board!

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Kris transferred Gamay to a more reliable container for the trip to Malatapay.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    This wash basin was much more watertight, but just as awkward as the cooler to carry when it was full of water.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    After the initial problem with the cooler, we had Gamay loaded into the Marine Lab truck and we were on our way. We covered the basin to try and reduce the stress on the journey through Dumaguete and on to Malatapay.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Gamay arrived at the Malatapay landing looking pretty chipper, all things considered.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    We decided to use another cooler to make the trip to Apo because it would keep the water at a lower temperature and the fishermen on Apo could use it to bring fish back to the market.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Yet another container transfer for Gamay, but he was a good sport about it.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Gamay was quite popular with everyone at the boat landing that afternoon.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Before we caught our boat ride to Apo it seemed like a good time for a photo with the little fellow.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Within about ten minutes of arriving at Malatapay, the Apo boat Perno was ready to take us out to the island, so we carried Gamay in his new cooler out to the waiting boat.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Kristen and Emily, her friend from college were in charge of Gamay for the boat crossing (he's under the yellow tarp in this photo).

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    After 45 minutes of motoring, we cruised past Apo's landmark, the Boluarte Rocks.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    After a quick stop by the dive shop to pick up masks and snorkels, we were back in the boat to take Gamay over to Apo's Marine Sanctuary.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Kris lowered Gamay and the cooler into the water once we were inside the sanctuary. I think you can tell from his expression in this photo that he was taking the job pretty seriously.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Two seconds from freedom.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Once out of the cooler, Gamay was off like a thoroughbred racehorse towards the dense coral garden of Apo's Marine Sanctuary.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    We snorkeled with Gamay for a little while.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    Gamay seemed to take to the new surroundings of the sanctuary quite well.

  • Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005

    Apo Island Sea Turtle Release - May 2005
    After a few minutes of snorkeling with Gamay, we wished him luck and watched him swim away.