The scientific name for the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is Eretmochelys imbricate. This sea reptile has a life span of around 30 to 50 years. Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous and enjoy feeding on sponges along the coastline where they are also closer to the beaches where they nest. Hawksbill turtles also enjoy feeding on molluscs, sea urchins, crustaceans and jellyfish. You can see now that the diets of sea turtles play such an important part of maintaining a healthy coral reef ecosystem.
*Plastic packets look like jellyfish to turtles and if a turtle ingests plastic it cannot dive and unfortunately suffers a slow and painful death on the ocean’s surface, therefore beach clean-ups are so important.
Hawksbill turtles can weigh in at 100 to 150 pounds and can grow up to 45 inches! Not as big as the leatherback turtles but these little guys play just as big a part in keeping our oceans clean and healthy as their bigger counterparts! The carapace of a young hawksbill is distinctive by its heart shape which elongates as the turtle matures in age and the most recognizable attribute to the hawksbill turtles carapace (shell) is the serrated edge of their carapace which has overlapping scutes which are the thick bony plates covering the soft body of the turtle. The hawksbill turtle gets its name from the sharp point of its tapered head which resembles a bird’s beak. Did you know that the hawksbill also has a pair of claws on each flipper, the males actually have longer claws than the female and much thicker tails which also makes it easier for identifying each turtle for our volunteers.
All sea turtles travel extreme distances to nest on sandy beaches around every two years! The Hawksbill turtles lay around 160 eggs in a put that they dig using their flippers and then cover back up before they head back to the big blue ocean and 60 days later the hatchlings will emerge from their sandy nest and make the most dangerous trek from their nest to the ocean avoiding gulls, and crabs who prey on the fresh new hatchlings.
Hawksbill and other sea turtles are endangered not only due to fishing nets but humans who have killed the turtles for their shells using them for ornamental purpose, jewellery, décor etc. Turtles eggs and flesh are still regarded as a delicacy in some countries and eaten. Habitat loss due to coastal development as well as rising temperatures which are killing the reefs which turtles rely on for food.
If you would like to join the ethical conservation revolution and assist with turtle monitoring in the tropical paradise waters of Mauritius, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or visit our website.
By Claire Paton