Meet "YaPeDi", the Palawan Forest Turtle named after COVID-19 to symbolize "hope that a meaningful life ahead is waiting" after the crisis. (Photo courtesy of Indira Lacerna-Widmann)

A newly-hatched Palawan Forest Turtle, known in Cuyunon as “bakoko”, has been named after COVID-19, not as an absurd misrepresentation of the pandemic but as a symbol of “hope that a meaningful life ahead is waiting” for everyone.

Indira Lacerna-Widmann, chief executive and operations officer of the Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI) under which the Palawan Freshwater Turtle Conservation Project (PFTCP) is an ongoing conservation program, said they named their new Palawan Forest Turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) Yanyan Peter Covidi or officially “YaPeDi” to represent “hope in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Hatched on April 22, YaPeDi weighs 15 grams, measures 43.5 millimeters long, and is the 6th captive-bred Palawan Forest Turtle. Also known as Philippine forest turtle, it is classified by the IUCN as a critically endangered species.

She said the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) not only caused difficulties in the lives of many people but also to the natural environment because regular patrols cannot be done to protect its resources.

“This quarantine caused by COVID-19 has caused much also to nature. Now on ECQ, regular patrols by wildlife enforcers in protected areas or in lowland forests can’t be done. While ECQ provides a breather for the species at the brink of extinction, the plunderers are also out busy destroying natural habitats. We hope this destruction ends so we can ensure a meaningful life ahead for YaPeDi and other wildlife,” Widmann said.

“We want to be reminded that nature can strike back at its own course. COVID-19 is an alarm and I hope it is taken seriously. While COVID-19 is so scary, we cling to hope as the best strategy while we are on quarantine for now. Hope that while people observe enhanced quarantine brought by COVID, species in their natural habitats recover. With YaPeDi, hope is brought to life as well for our captive breeding program on the bakoko. Hope is wished too, for a more successful breeding season of the birds in this midst of crisis,” she added.

On the other hand, PFTCP director Dr. Sabine Schoppe said the hatching of YaPeDi in the time of the coronavirus pandemic also proves that untiring conservation efforts are bearing fruits for wildlife conservation in harmony with people.

“YaPeDi is not only bringing hope but also proof that untiring conservation efforts are bearing fruits and that we should never give up in our endeavors to conserve wildlife in harmony with people,” she said.

Dr. Schoppe also expressed her gratitude to their long-lasting funding partner Wildlife Reserves Singapore.