Invasive species native to China found in Philippines

·Contributor
·2 min read
The Chinese softshell turtle has been declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as an invasive species. (Photo: Curma/Facebook)
The Chinese softshell turtle has been declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as an invasive species. (Photo: Curma/Facebook)

Another invasive species native to China is turning up in the Philippine waters, with conservation groups warning that it could harm the country’s endemic aquatic life.

The species Pelodiscus sinesis, more commonly known as Chinese softshell turtle, which grows to about 4 to 10 inches, and are commonly raised as pets in China, was found in a river in the coastal province of La Union, with locals having no idea how it turned up there.

The barangay captain of Nagsabaran in San Juan, La Union, turned the invasive alien species (IAS) to the local disaster risk reduction and management office, said the nongovernmental organization Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (Curma), a conservation group protecting sea turtle based in San Juan. Its volunteers “patrol the coastline and secure turtle nests from dangers, together with other activities to help preserve marine life and the environment as a whole.”

Curma said that the turtle is considered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as an IAS, thus it is “considered … a threat to the Philippine endemic and indigenous fish and aquatic animals, as well as to local fishponds and fish operations.”

An IAS, according to the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, is “organisms that are spread outside their natural distribution and become a threat to native ecosystems and biodiversity.”

“The introduction of Chinese softshell turtles to wetlands and other areas of the Philippines ‘is unauthorized, illegal, and punishable with imprisonment of up to eight years or a fine of up to P5 million, or both’,” Curma said, citing a DENR order on introducing animals that’s considered as IAS.

The Chinese softshell turtles are also considered in many countries as a delicacy, cooking it as a turtle soup.

There have been many sightings of this species throughout the Philippines. In 2020, a Chinese softshell turtle was found in Quezon City, who asked for assistance from the DENR regional office to retrieve the said species.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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