Sea turtles are incredible survivors. They have roamed the oceans for millions of years and existed since the dinosaurs. They are a vital and easily recognisable part of ocean ecosystems.
Sea turtles are delightful to see whether on land or at sea (Photo Credit : Leonardo Lamas - pexels.com)
Seven species of sea turtles have been identified globally. These are Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Olive Ridley, Kemp's Ridley and Flatback.
Of these, two nest in Seychelles – the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles have also been seen in our waters.
All seven turtle species are under threat and appear on the IUCN RedList.
Seychelles law protects all turtles since 1994, with steep poaching fines imposed. Unfortunately, we still have poaching issues.
Turtles also face other threats including pollution, by-catch in fishing nets, destruction of breeding and foraging habitats, and climate change.
For World Turtle Day (May 23), we share five reasons to love and protect sea turtles.
For their innate beauty
Sea turtles are delightful to see whether on land or at sea. Their beauty has long captured our imagination, and their image is represented in art and crafts, jewellery, and body art. Hawksbill turtles are known for their beautiful shell, which unfortunately was once heavily exploited and sold for jewellery making.
They play a vital role in marine ecosystems
Sea turtles help balance marine ecosystems by controlling other species' populations. For example, Green turtles graze on seagrass, which keeps them healthy. Leatherbacks feed on jellyfish and keep them in check, while Hawksbills maintain coral reef health by eating sponges that compete with corals.
Turtles are a tourist attraction
Turtles are a tourist attraction, whether seen in the water while diving or snorkelling, onshore nesting, or as hatchlings making their way to the sea. Many visitors wish to snorkel or see them nesting, and tour operators offer the opportunity to do so. Sustainable ecotourism is a valuable source of jobs, raises awareness, and generates revenue for conservation efforts and local communities.
They are ambassadors for ocean biodiversity
There is no doubt that sea turtles are iconic representatives of our ocean's biodiversity. Keeping sea turtle populations and their habitats healthy also safeguards the incredible diversity of marine life that coexists with them.
Their survival and well-being are also closely tied to marine ecosystem conditions. Their vulnerability to pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction reflects the oceans' challenges.
Their annual nesting forays also require safe and healthy beaches. By protecting nesting sites, we sustain the delicate balance of coastal ecosystems.
For their cultural and educational significance
Sea turtles are loved and revered by many cultures and can be found in diverse local folklore. Additionally, they offer invaluable educational opportunities, inspiring people of all ages to learn about the wonders of the natural world. By nurturing our love for sea turtles, we foster environmental stewardship and encourage the next generation to become advocates for marine conservation.
We can help by keeping their habitats clean and safe
How can you help sea turtles?
We can protect turtles by ending poaching, supporting conservation organizations, reducing plastic consumption, and keeping their habitats clean and safe.