GMA News Online
Lifestyle

After seven years, rare soft-shelled turtle resurfaces in Quirino Province

July 8, 2008 10:18pm
CABARROGUIS, Quirino - A local fisherman here captured a rare turtle specie while fishing along the Addalam River. The turtle was found enmeshed in the fishnet, prompting the townsfolk to report the find to the provincial environment office.

The turtle known as the juvenile Cantor’s Soft-Shelled Turtle is locally known as “cagot". It was last seen seven years ago in the area and was sent to Chicago for further studies. It was confirmed to be an endangered turtle specie.

Leo Valdez, Cabarroguis municipal environment officer, said the turtle’s discovery prompted local officials to expand the wildlife sanctuary here to six hectares from five. The sanctuary is part of the fish sanctuary established in the mid-1990’s.
“Intensive quarry operations and illegal fishing activities along the river prompted the local leaders to protect the area to enable it to renew and increase fish stocks," Valdez said.

The turtle habitat is part of the protected biodiversity area assisted by USAid-funded Philippine Environmental Governance Project with technical assistance from the town’s Forest Land Use Plan. The program is designed to help the townsfolk protect watersheds and forests.

Rey Ramos of the DENR office in Quirino said improper agricultural practices, especially the use of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides in the uplands, continue to be a threat to the turtle’s habitat, pushing the “cagot" to the brink of extinction.

“People here who benefited from our province’s conservation efforts are calling on others to support their local government in wildlife protection," Ramos said.

Valdez believes that the rediscovery of the turtle will trigger efforts to protect its habitat, and free the river systems of Quirino from pollutants caused by improper agriculture and mining operations in the uplands.

“Cagot" is a freshwater turtle found in Quirino’s Addalam River that irrigates ricelands in Cabarroguis, Aglipay and Saguday and nearby towns in Isabela province. - GMANews.TV