Pawikan Conservation Center

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The Pawikan Conservation Center is a protected area in Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan where pawikans (marine turtles) are able to lay their eggs away from threats of poaching, egg gathering, slaughter, illegal fishing, and pollution.

Background

The Center began in 1999 as a community-based program initiated by a local organization called Bantay Pawikan, Inc. to save the pawikan from extinction. The center's volunteers consist mostly of former poachers and egg collectors who have turned to pawikan conservation advocacy. With the help of the United Nations Development Program's Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program and the provincial chapter of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, more communities and neighboring towns adopted the conservation effort.

Between September and January, pawikans return to the coasts of Bagac and Morong, known nesting grounds of three out of five species of pawikans in the country. The volunteers collect and transfer the eggs to a hatchery for incubation. During the nesting season, many visitors gather at the Center to watch the pawikans come ashore in the evening and lay their eggs.

Adopt a turtle

The Center also offers visitors a chance to interact with the pawikans personally, albeit for a short period of time, with its “Adopt-a-turtle” program. For a fee of P200, a visitor can hold and release a newly hatched turtle into the sea. The baby pawikans are released either early in the morning or late in the afternoon in order to spare them from stress due to the sun's heat. A t-shirt is also given as proof of participation in the program.

Pawikan Festival

Toward the end of November, visitors and locals gather at Nagbalayong Beach and celebrate the Pawikan Festival. Among the aims of the two-day festivity is to stir the awareness of people, not only in Bataan but in the entire country as well, about protecting the sea turtles and their nesting grounds.

A main attraction of the festival is the ceremonial release of thousands of hatchlings early in the morning. Other activities include: a photo exhibit, film showing, mural and graffiti painting contest, kite-flying contest, sand sculpture contest, Bantay Pawikan's Cup Open beach volleyball competition, coastal clean-up activities, street dancing, and a free concert by the beach.

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Citation

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