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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesFriday, June 15, 2012
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NGO offers to rehabilitate
endangered sea turtles

Members of Physalus, a non-profit organization founded in Italy with a marine conservation project in the Philippines, met Thursday with officials from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office II on ways to rehabilitate four endangered sea turtles bred in captivity for more than 20 years in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.

The Physalus, which initiated its Bohol-based Large Marine Vertebrates (LAMAVE) Project-Philippines in 2010, headed by Dr. Alessandro Ponzo, showed interest in the sea turtles at the Oceanarium of the Mina Undersea World in Zamboanguita town seeing their “dismal” state in recent media reports.

Ponzo, with marine biologists Elson Aca and Kristina Pahang, and professional underwater photographer/ videographer and environmentalist Steve de Neef, met Thursday with CENRO II chief Mario Aragon and Wildlife Protection section supervisor Oscar Mongcopa.

There are two green sea and two hawksbill turtles, considered as endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The turtles, are legitimately owned by the operators of the oceanarium and have permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources but, need to be reassessed on their current health state, Ponzo said.

Ponzo and his team have offered technical assistance and educational and information campaign materials.

Mayor Kit Mark Adanza, recently allocated funds for the expansion of the swimming tank of the turtles.

At Thursday’s meeting, it was agreed that the LAMAVE group and CENRO II officials meet with Adanza and representatives of the oceanarium on possible venues to provide better living conditions for the turtles.

Meanwhile, Steve de Neef also said that some individuals from the private sector are also willing to extend help once a clear-cut plan of action has been made for the endangered sea turtles.

Oscar Mongcopa said the CENRO II welcomes and is grateful for the offer of help by the LAMAVE as the DENR lacks manpower and has limitations in addressing environmental issues and concerns.*JFP

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