Tourist sparks outrage after making sea turtle piggyback on him in Philippines
PALAWAN, PHILIPPINES — A tourist sparked outrage after making an endangered sea turtle piggyback on him while swimming around a beach in the Philippines.
The holidaymaker, who did not want to be identified following the backlash, and his family were island hopping when they encountered two of the 4ft-long turtles in the beautiful Palawan region on September 5.
But instead of marvelling at the creatures from a distance, the father and his family jumped off their boat and asked their local guides to help them swim and take pictures with the animals.
Footage shows a confused turtle being forced to ride on the man's back as they capture videos and photos of them together moving around the water.
An official from the Municipal Tourism Development and Management labelled the incident as "abuse" and "cruelty".
A statement from the agency said: "The Municipal Tourism Development and Management Office of Taytay, Palawan strongly condemns the acts of tour guides and tourists and all other people involved in the abuse and cruelty perpetrated on the sea turtles in Debangan Island as seen in the video.
"Rest assured that we have laws and ordinances protecting our local wildlife against exploitation, particularly the Endangered green sea turtles. All individuals on this video will be dealt with accordingly and met with fines and penalties without prejudice to filing a criminal case in the appropriate court."
Despite criticisms, the tourist maintained that they were only trying to befriend the turtle.
He said: 'We were just being friendly with the turtle. We did not harass or hurt it. The turtle was not stressed.
'We felt that we were just enjoying being close to the wildlife in the ocean.'
The species of turtle in the video is a 'Green sea turtle', known locally as a pawikan. They are classed as 'Endangered' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. - REUTERS