A young male Southeast Asian Box Turtle with 6 ½ inches in size was turned over to the Wildlife Enforcement Officer (WEO) Leonardo Punzal of Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Rizal by a concerned citizen, Mr. Raul Hular of Greenpark Village, Cainta, Rizal.
According to the concerned citizen, the turtle was seen in front of their gate last September 20, 2022. Due to the pouring rain, the creek's water instantly rose which allowed the turtle to climb over to the stairs leading to the concerned citizen’s residence. They then took the turtle to ensure its safety then later asked their village and other neighboring residences about the lost turtle, however, no one claimed to know about the said turtle. This prompted Mr. Hular to seek support for animal welfare through a post in social media to know where he could surrender it especially since he believes it to be belonging to an endangered species of turtles. He was then contacted by the Cainta Patrol Sector Team Leader and Alternate Information Officer, Forest Technician I Richard Justine Angeles, to know the situation and make an appropriate course of action for the said turtle. With coordination from WEO Leonardo Punzal, the said personnel went to the site to rescue the turtle.
When the team arrived at the scene, Mr. Punzal confirmed that the said turtle belongs to the genus of Cuora and is identified as Southeast Asian Box Turtle. Based on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Southeast Asian Box Turtle has been listed as Vulnerable since 2000. It was considered as a heavily traded species for food or pet worldwide and can live up to 100 years or more with a size as large as 12 inches. Its natural habitat includes water bodies such as ponds, shallow swamps, and streams.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed the said turtle under CITES Appendix II, signifying that the said species are not necessarily threatened now with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Mr. Hular expressed his thanks for the fast action by the personnel from PENRO Rizal but wished for the establishment of proper information dissemination regarding the contact information of appropriate agencies for issues like this so as to even hasten the process of rescuing vulnerable species like the Southeast Asian Box Turtle.
After coordination with the concerned citizen, the team then handled the Southeast Asian Box Turtle with temporary custody at PENRO Rizal and is scheduled to be turned over to the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.