Save the sea turtles of Georgia
This highly migratory species, estimated to live over 100 years, is one of the largest reptiles in the world.
Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 16:38
HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLE: Typically hunted for its beautiful shell. (Photo: eNil/Flickr)
In Georgia, 62 species of plants and animals make up the list of endangered or threatened species. Of these species, five of them are sea turtles; a daunting number considering there are only seven species of sea turtles found around the world. These highly migratory species, estimated to live over 100 years, are some of the largest reptiles in the world. Included in this group are the green sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle and loggerhead sea turtle.
Green sea turtles are typically found in the waters of the Caribbean; however, they are also found in the coastal waters of Georgia. The main reason for the decline of this species is due to hunting. Green sea turtles are typically hunted for their meat, which is typically then made into soup. They are really unique, because they are the only type of sea turtle that eats plants. Therefore, they are usually found in shallow waters where there are characteristically a lot of algae.
Hawksbill sea turtles, smaller than most other sea turtles, have a diet that consists mainly of sponges and other invertebrates. Unfortunately, these creatures are by and large hunted for their shells. Until recently, Japan was major importer of tortoise shells; however, they agreed to stop this practice in 1993. Nevertheless, black-market trading of these precious goods still exists today, especially from Cuba.
Kemp's Ridley sea turtles are among the smallest as well as the most endangered of all sea turtle species. Unlike other turtles, these reptiles typically feed on crabs. The alleged endangerment of these is primarily due to human activities; however, luckily, the Kemp's Ridley population is appearing to recover.
Leatherback sea turtles, the largest of them all, are found in the deepest parts of the cold ocean. For the size of this reptile, it is a surprise that they get the amount of nutrients they need from jellyfish, their main food source. Other than commercial fisherman hunting the leatherbacks for their meat, the main reason for decline is death from pollutants in the deep ocean. Unfortunately, less than 10 leatherback nests are recorded in Georgia each year.
Contrasting from the other sea turtles in the endangered category, loggerhead sea turtles remain listed as threatened. Similar to the Kemp's Ridley, these turtles are primarily hunted for human activities, especially the juvenile turtles.
Overall, there are many reasons that sea turtle extinction has been on the rise. Fortunately, there are various actions that people can take in order to help prevent further danger to sea turtles:
1) Increasing the use of turtle excluder devices
2) Never disturb a sea turtle that is crawling to or from the sea
3) Once a sea turtle has begun nesting, observe her only from a distance; do not crowd
4) Never attempt to ride a sea turtle
5) Do not shine lights in a sea turtles eyes or take flash photography
6) Avoid or reduce beach lighting at night
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