Over 1,272 species of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) across the Philippines have been identified by experts through photographs shared by public dubbed as “citizen scientists.”

The National Turtle Catalogue Project invited the general public, including divers and snorkelers, to submit photographs of turtles to be submitted to professional scientists of the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE).

The turtle research by LAMAVE in Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (Negros Oriental), Balicasig Island and Panglao (Bohol), and multiple sites in southern Cebu has collaborated with the photographic submissions from scuba divers, freedivers, snorkelers, underwater photographers, and local community members across the country.

“This collaboration allows the simultaneous and efficient collection of large amounts of data from multiple research sites,” LAMAVE said in a statement.

“Photographs hold the key to identifying individual turtles. thanks to non-invasive research technique called photo-identification. This technique used the unique patterns on a turtle’s head to distinguish one individual from another without the need for capturing or handling or touching the animal,” they added.

The researchers and citizen scientists were able to record 25,614 encounters with Green and Hawksbill turtles, as well as identify 1,272 unique individuals across 40 research sites.

The project is also supported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), and Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.

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