|Basic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1993, 151 p.)|
|Freshwater and marine ecosystems|
The marine turtles are fast disappearing. Once these animals are gone, they are gone forever. Among the reptiles, the turtles are believed to be the longest-living animals. Some species of turtles are known to live for as long as 200 years under normal conditions.
The turtles belong to the Order Chelonia, an order of reptiles over two million years old. They are characterized by a shell that encloses the vital organs of the body. The turtle shell consists of two parts: the carapace covering the back of the turtle and the plastron covering the belly.
Turtles are actually semi-aquatic and marine dwelling reptiles. The Philippines has both freshwater and sea turtles. The hard-shelled terrapins are strictly freshwater dwellers.
Life cycle of a marine turtle
There are three freshwater turtles found in the Philippines, namely the Malayan pond turtle, the Serrated-skelled pond turtle and the Leyte pond turtle.
Five out of the eight known species of marine turtles worldwide are found in the Philippines. These are the Olive Ridley Turtle, the Hawkshill Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, the Green Sea Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle.
Species of marine turtles
Sea turtles can be distinguished from their freshwater relatives by their paddle-like legs. They feed mainly on mollusks, fishes, crabs and also marine plants. These marine turtles can be found in the waters of Tawi-Tawi in the Sulu Archipelago, Tubattaha Reef in Palawan and Bantayan Bay in Cebu. They breed in marine waters but go offshore, such as sandy beaches, to lay their eggs.
The largest turtle in the world - the Leatherback Turtle - may be found in Malaysia, Australia and the Philippines. It derived its name from the texture of its skin which is leather-like.
Throughout the world, turtle meat has supplemented the diet of people. Added to this is the demand created to satisfy the cravings of people with exotic taste for turtle eggs and meat.
For many years, marine turtles have also been gathered for their precious shells, being one of the top exports of the Philippines. Today, stuffed turtles are also sold as wall decor and guitars are made from resistant turtle shells. The carapace of the marine turtles are made into combs, brush handles, eyeglass frames, buttons, jewelry and other accessories. Even the turtle hatchlings are being sold as pets. The freshwater turtles are not exempted from exploitation, they are also sold for their meat or as pets.
Products made from marine turtle