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Sea Turtles



Introduction

For millions of years Sea Turtles have been roaming earth, they have a crucial role for the marine life they live amongst. There are seven different species of Sea Turtles in the world and each kind is endangered. They are the Hawksbill Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, the Leatherback Turtle, the Flatback turtle, the Green Turtle, the Kemp Ridley and the Olive Ridley Turtle.


Why they matter?

Sea turtles help maintain the health of our kelp beds and coral reefs so smaller animals can shelter in them. Green turtles graze on seagrass to keep the right nutrients level, with less green turtles the seagrass bed are getting overgrown and interfering with ocean currents. Hawksbill turtles keep the level of sea sponges at bay in the coral reefs. Too many sea sponges will make competition hard in the reef. Leatherback Turtles eat lots of jellyfish (around 200 kg a day) and stop large masses of them in one area.


Threats

Sea turtles journey between land and sea and swim thousands of ocean miles during their long lifetimes. Females come onto beaches to lay hundreds of eggs, yet only a handful survive their first year of life. Beyond these natural occurrences there are still many threats caused by humans.


Pollution

Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags as jellyfish and can choke on them. Discarded fishing gear is also really bad for turtles because they get tangled up in it and are unable to swim or eat. Trash on the beaches can entangle hatchlings making it impossible to reach the ocean and oil spills can kill turtles of all ages. The CSIRO Ocean & Atmosphere estimated that 52% of turtles have ingested rubbish.





Habitat Loss

Sea turtles always come back to the same beach they hatched from to lay their eggs, but it's not that easy. Uncontrolled vehicle traffic on beaches, and other human activities have destroyed or disturbed sea turtle nesting beaches around the world. The street lights confuse the hatchlings away from the water and people walk over nests day after day compacting sand and breaking shells. Global warming has warmed up the oceans burning the coral reefs and seagrass they feed on making it harder to find food.

Illegal Trading & Poaching

Sea Turtles are poached and traded for their eggs, meat, skin and their shells. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons why they are endangered. The Hawksbill turtles usually get poached for their beautiful golden brown shells which are used to create jewelry and other items. This is the main reason why Hawksbills are critically endangered. Tens of thousands of turtles are lost this way every year, devastating the already endangered populations. Even though Trading and Poaching has been banned by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora) still, illegal practises persist.


How You Can Help

  • Reduce: Every plastic piece you don’t buy, is one less piece of plastic that can end up in the ocean. If you stop buying plastic, there won't be as much demand so not as much income for the big companies.

  • Avoid single-use plastic: Use a reusable shopping bag instead of a plastic bag, and watch out for other plastic items like coffee cups and wet wipes.

  • Avoid microplastic: Plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm in length are called microplastics. Microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest part in the Mariana trench to inside animals and humans.




Facts

  1. The oldest sea turtle fossil is at least 120 million years old, meaning they shared the planet with the dinosaurs.

  2. Leatherback Turtles can travel up to 16,000 km or more to eat enough jellyfish.

  3. Green turtles can hold their breath underwater for as long as five hours! To do this they slow their heart rate to 1 beat per 9 minutes, saving oxygen.

  4. The leatherback turtle is the largest of all living turtles and can grow to weigh about 600kg

  5. A hatchling’s gender depends on the temperature of the nest. Hotter temperatures produce more females while more males emerge from cooler temperatures.

  6. Hawksbill turtles have beaks and use them to eat sea sponges there favourite food.

  7. Sea Turtles can't hide in their shells unlike other turtles.

  8. Turtles don't have teeth.

  9. The biggest leatherback recorded was 2.5m long and 900kg.

  10. Females make interesting noises when migrating.



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