Happy World Turtle Day!
Let's face it, who doesn't like turtles? That's probably what gets requested the most from our divers, and with a well-protected marine park, it's very easy to deliver. Turtles are interesting animals, with personalities and fun quirks, so what are 5 Cool Facts that you should know about turtles today?
Fact 1. The green turtle has green insides
You may have noticed that green turtles are not particularly greener than any other turtle species. In fact, when they're babies, they're black! The green turtle is actually named that because the layer between its organs and its shell is green, not because its shell is.
Fact 2. Turtle shells are part of them
Unlike tortoises, turtle shells are not a separate piece of material covering their backs. Their shells are their backs. That's why if they get shell injuries, it can be life threatening, because it's basically the same as a human getting a wound on their backs.
Fact 3. Baby turtles swim for 4 days straight after they're born
When we were diving in the Bonin Islands of Japan, we visited a turtle sanctuary that's done some phenomenal work in the area. We got lucky and went there after a group of hatchlings were born 3 days earlier. Inside their swimming pool, they just kept swimming...and swimming...and swimming. Baby turtles are hardwired to swim for days into open ocean before they find floating seaweed or something to rest on, so these little guys just kept swimming in circles for the first few days after they were born.
Fact 4. Only 1% of turtles make it to sexual maturity
Crazy! Out of all the turtles born all over the world, only 1% will survive to reach sexual maturity. The majority of turtle babies never make it past the beach on their first day alive. This is why it's so important to protect the turtles that we have left, because human interference and consumption has not made things easier for these guys. Although many turtles species are now protected, boat activity, trawling and hunting are decimating turtles numbers around the world. For a population that already struggles to survive, it's a severe blow.
Fact 5. Hawksbill shells are still being exploited
Classified as Critically Endangered by the World Wildlife Fund, Hawksbill turtle shells are most threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. Their brown and yellow patterned shells commonly referred to as "tortoiseshell" are extremely popular and can sell for a high price. While most tortoiseshell products are now made out of synthetic materials, there is still a startling amount of illegal trade of their shells and products. To ensure you are buying the fake tortoiseshell from the real ones, we suggest you consider the price, is the vendor reputable and most of all the detailing on the object. Real tortoise shell is hand carved so it will have small imperfections along with a higher price tag.
Show your turtle love!
For all the turtle lovers out there, here's a few ways we can be heroes to these adorable reptiles on World Turtle Day:
Use Reusable Bags - Plastic bags floating in the ocean look almost identical to one of their favorite foods, jellyfish and turtles mistakenly ingest it. Add this to the long list of reasons of why reusable bags should be a part of your daily living!
Respect Turtles in their Natural Habitat - Whether you're diving or snorkeling in the Bay Islands, it's illegal to touch, chase, harass or ride them. Also if you're lucky enough to be near a beach area where turtles lay eggs, it's critical to keep a safe distance from hatchlings and be mindful not to confuse the younglings with any artificial light like camera flashes at night. Keeping a safe distance helps ensure that turtles & many other marine animals are not harmed as a result of human interaction.
Resist Disposable Utensils - From plastic straws, forks, spoons and knifes and more, the volume of plastic debris that ends up in the ocean is staggering. Sea turtles and many other marine animals ingest it, causing blockages in their digestive track. Turtles fights to expel these foreign objects, as seen in the infamous turtle straw removal video, but ultimately many cannot leading to death.