This is an urgent call for help.
Yesterday, June 17 some 4312 live and 90 dead freshwater turtles were confiscated in Southern Palawan. Last night they arrived at the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (the government organization in charge) in Puerto Princesa City who then requested Katala Foundation to take over. Since KFI can hardly handle such a large number we requested that most of them would be temporarily deposited at the Government Rescue Center (PWRCC) for species identification and assessment of health conditions. That is what we did today whole day. We counted 3748 live S. leytensis, 159 dead S. leytensis, 168 C. dentata and 25 C. amboinensis.
The total of 4137 is lower than what was published in the news yesterday (4312) which might reflect losses along the way and uncounted deaths.
They are in terrible conditions: dehydrated, malnourished, bite wounds, shell rot, etc. all showing that they have been kept in captivity for long. We presume that they have been collected all over the range of the species in Northern Palawan for the past of least 6 months. It further looks as if they were destined for China to be shipped out from where they were confiscated in the south of Palawan . The good news is that our estimates of the total wild population size was too low, but the bad news is that after this confiscation the estimate is most probably true again. It might be even too low since we know that some local populations in Taytay are already depleted.
The number of confiscated is more than KFI can handle due to the lack of facilities. So fare we took care of some 500 only. The remainder is still at the government rescue center, who only committed to keep them for a couple of days. They too don’t have the funds to take care of such a number of individuals, nor do they have the man power and knowledge about the husbandry of this species.
There two options A) keep them in the rescue center provided we (KFI) allocate the funds to cover all costs. But even with a lot of efforts, conditions there a not good for turtles. B) We lease a property with natural water, fence it and keep the turtles there until they are ready for release. I did survey potential areas this morning and found one feasible and affordable.
Definitely we hope to release them as soon as possible but that needs planning considering the large number and the fact that they are collected all over the northern part of the Province. We wish to do DNA sequencing hoping to identify source of origin.
A very rough estimate of the most urgent needs of the turtles until release (some 3 months) amounts to some PHP505,000 or USD 12,000 excluding the DNA sampling which we believe should be done as well. Costs will just cover food, basic health care (incl deworming), water, husbandry, improvement of the facilities in which they are now or preparing a leased area, and morphology.
Please help me spreading this information and help me raising funds to rehabilitate these Palawan Forest Turtles.
Hoping for your feedback and support,