Cultural Properties Regulation Division
NATIONAL MUSEUM RECOVERS THE REMAINS OF THE LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE IN BULA, CAMARINES SUR
The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) Technical Team led by Acting Deputy Director General, Angel P. Bautista recovered the remains of a leatherback sea turtle in the sandy shore of Barangay Caraosan, Bula, Camarines Sur on August 2, 2019. With the assistance of officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Municipality of Bula, the members of the NMP team, namely, Roberto Balarbar, Maria Josefa S. Veluz, Evelyn U. Mendoza, Eddie I. Codino, Clien Yvan A. Ongkiatco and Remson Fortuna, were able to recover and to apply initial conservation measures on the leatherback turtle 6 days after it was buried on July 8, 2018.
Also known as lute turtle, leathery turtle or luth, the leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living turtles and can reach the length of 10 feet or 3.048 meters. The scientific name is Dermochelys coriacea, the only living species in the genus Dermochelys and family Dermochelyidae. It can certainly be distinguished from other sea turtles by its lack of a solid, bony carapace or shell. Its carapace when adult is large, elongated and bendable with 7 distinct crests running the length of the carapace. Covered with a layer of thin and rubbery skin, the carapace is supported by thousands of small star-like bony plates.
D. coriacea is listed on CITES Appendix I, consequently the export / import of this species including parts is illegal. The most widely distributed of all sea turtles, the species is listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as VU (Vulnerable).
According to Mr. Henry Bismonte, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) of Bula, Camarines Sur, the leatherback sea turtle was found dead floating near the shoreline of Barangay Caraosan. The flippers of the carcass were found entangled with rope and nets which probably the cause of drowning and eventual death of the turtle. Based on the report given to the NMP by Mr. Nestor Franz A. Fortuno, OIC of City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), the sea turtle was a male, 1.38 meters long and weighed 200 kilograms and it was found by Mr. Tirso B. Renegado.
The remains of the sea turtle are in state of decomposition when the remains were exposed by the NMP team. However, the skin is still intact and can be preserved as a stuffed specimen. To check if the turtle is a victim of improper disposal of waste, the internal organs were examined. Fortunately the NMP team did not find any undigestible materials in the digestive system.
Equipped with the skill in the field of Taxidermy, Mr. Codino, NMP Technician II, can preserve the leatherback sea turtle as it appears when it is alive. Its skeleton will be likewise cleaned and mounted. This specimen is the first leatherback sea turtle of the NMP and will be used as a reference material in research and for exhibit purposes.
The field activity of NMP is another example of inter-agency cooperation, specially with the DENR in protecting, preserving and conserving the Philippine Fauna. As a scientific and research institution and recognized as a scientific authority of CITES, the NMP will support the DENR in the conservation efforts and recovery as well as continuous calls on the public to report such incidents and turnover of any wildlife to proper authorities for proper handling, protection and preservation.
Leatherback sea turtle found in Barangay Caraosan; NM Team with LGU and CENRO officials
Start of excavation to recover the remains of the leatherback turtle; exposition of the right flipper.
Exposition of the remains of the turtle.
Retrieval of the remains of the leatherback sea turtle.
The NM Team with local officials.
NM personnel preserve the remains of the leatherback sea turtle.