Sea turtles are the only living remnants of the dinosaur age. Today, these gentle creatures are yet facing another test for survival, but the question is … can they make it this time or might follow dinosaurs into extinction.
Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) is the smallest and rarest species of sea turtle. Its major habitat is the warm waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. especially Louisiana waters. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle prefer salt marsh habitats. The nesting season occurs from April to August where they appear to nest on beaches off Tamaulipas and Veracruz coasts of Mexico. Females lay eggs in clutches that averages 110 eggs.
Kemp’s Ridley hatchlings average 4-5 cm in length. Adults grow to about 61–91 cm long and weigh around 45 kilograms. Mature adults have olive-gray, oval carapace measuring around 65 cm and is nearly as wide. Kemp’s Ridley possesses a triangular-shaped head and a horny beak. These sea turtles change color as they mature; hatchlings are black while mature ones carry lighter grey-olive carapace.
The Kemp’s Ridley turtle feeds mainly on crabs but other food include jellyfish, seaweed, and sea urchins. It is the most endangered of all marine turtles with an estimated female nesting population at just 1,000 individuals. The decline in its population is no longer the egg hunters drowning in shrimp nets. Other threats include loss of their nesting habitat as well as pollution.
Flatback Sea Turtle
The Flatback turtle (Natator depressus) is a medium-sized sea turtle native to Australian waters. They inhabit inshore waters, coral reefs, bays, lagoon, and grassy waters. This species only breeds on beaches and islands of northern Australia. Breeding season is between November and December, where female lays around 50 eggs at a time. Flatback hatchlings are the largest of any turtle.
As its name suggests, flatback shell (carapace) is flattened on top. The olive-grey carapace with upturned edges, averages 90 centimeters long. Adult flatback sea turtles weigh from 100 to 125 kilograms. The Flatback turtle feeds on a variety of prey that includes shrimp, crabs, squid, jellyfish, sea cucumbers, mollusks, seaweed, soft corals, and fishes.
The species is listed as Vulnerable under the Australian Commonwealth’s Endangered Species Protection Act. With an annual nesting population of up to 10,000, This sea turtle is perhaps the least threatened species. Threats to this species include dwindling of feeding habitat, pollution, and preyed upon by both human and some animals direct for their meat and eggs.
Green Sea Turtle
The Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), is a large sea turtle found in tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world. There are two major subpopulations of green sea turtles, the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic subpopulations. Major nesting sites are found along U.S. eastern shores and several Caribbean islands. Green sea turtles are known to nest in the Turtle Islands in the Philippines.
The Green sea turtle has flattened body extending from back to front, covered by a large, heart-shaped carapace measuring up to 1.5 meters. It has greenish-colored skin, small head, and a pair of large flippers that resemble paddles. Adults are herbivores feeding mostly on sea grass, however, juveniles may feed on crabs, jellyfish, and sponges.
The IUCN (World Conservation Union) and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) list this sea turtle species as endangered. The decline in population is due to various threats such as; hunting, effects of some fisheries, marine debris, coastal development and habitat degradation, and pollution.
The Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), is a small to medium-sized sea turtle widely distributed throughout species found in tropical reefs Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are normally found in healthy tropical reefs. The largest nesting population of hawksbills are found in Australia. Several nesting sites are also found in the Philippines.
Just like other marine turtles, the hawksbill turtle has a flattened body shape, a tortoiseshell-colored carapace, and flipper that resembles flippers. It has elongated head and a curving beak. Adults average around 1 meter long and weigh around 45 to 68 kg. Adults’ carapace average from 63 to 90 cm in length easily distinguished by the pattern of thick scutes. Hawkbill turtles are primarily omnivores feeding mostly on sea sponges. Aside from sponges, they also eat jellyfish, comb jellies and sea anemones.
In 1996, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species listed this sea turtle species as critically endangered. The threat to their survival include habitat loss, slow reproductive rates, hunting, marine debris and habitat pollution.
The Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), is a marine reptile widespread in Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Loggerhead turtles inhabit coral reefs, shallow coastal waters, bays and estuarine habitats. It is the most endangered turtle that nests in Australia.
Named for its large head, the loggerhead holds the world’s record for largest hard-shelled turtle. Its reddish-brown, heart-shaped carapace (shell) averages 92 cm in length when fully grown. Adults measure around 3 feet in length and can weigh up to turtle 135 kilograms. Loggerheads eat bottom dwelling invertebrates like shellfish, crabs, sea urchins and jellyfish.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed loggerheads as “vulnerable” sea turtle species, while the U.S. Federal government has listed it as endangered worldwide. The major threat to the survival of this species is human activities such as killed for meat, egg, and leather, trapped and killed in fishing trawls and hit by boats. Also, loss of nesting beaches has also trigger the decline on loggerhead populations.
Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific Ridley, is the smallest living species of sea turtle widespread in tropical waters, including Pacific, Indian and the southern Atlantic Oceans. They inhabit bays, coastal waters, and estuaries. It is named for the greenish color of its carapace and skin.
The Olive Ridley distinguishable feature is its two visible claws on each of their flippers resembling paddles. It is about 62 to 70 cm long and weighs up to 45 kg. It has a medium–sized, broad head and sport white line borders on its carapace. The Olive Ridley feeds primarily on crabs, shrimp, snails, jellyfish, sea urchins. rock lobsters, and tunicates.
The Olive Ridley is listed as Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature And Natural Resources (IUCN). The principal threat to its survival is rampant collection of eggs and mass killing of adults on nesting beaches. Other major threats include: habitat loss, climate change and death from human fishing activities associated with trawling and boat collisions.
The Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the world’s largest turtle found in the open ocean including Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It prefers deep water breeding beaches. Leatherback turtles are the fastest-moving reptiles and one of the deepest diving marine animals. It feeds mainly on jellyfish.
Adults leatherback can reach 270 cm long and weigh 250 to 700 kilograms. A leatherback’s shell is about 4 cm thick It has some remarkable characteristics that differentiate it from other sea turtles such as:
* It lacks a hard, bony shell.
* Its front flippers are proportionally than in the other marine turtles.
* It has ridged carapace.
* Claws are absent from both pairs of flippers.
Leatherback sea turtle is listed as Endangered throughout its range. Threat to their survival include long-term harvest and incidental capture in fishing gear, human encroachment, loss of nesting beaches, and marine debris.
These helpless sea turtles are crying out for HELP. Are we going to SAVE them or will simply IGNORE their call?