There are seven species of sea turtle. The largest is the Leatherback which can grow up to 3m in length and weigh up to 900kg. The smallest species are the Olive Ridley and Kemp's Ridley at just 65cm long and 40kg in weight.
Although slow and cumbersome on land, a streamlined body and long wing-like flippers ensure turtles are fast and agile swimmers. Air-breathing lungs are adapted for long, deep dives while excess salt is excreted from a special gland in the eye as ‘turtle tears’. A hard shelled carapace provides protection against potential predators.
Turtles have a life span of up to 80 years and are generally solitary creatures, rarely encountering other turtles apart from courtship and mating. After mating, females lay up to 150 eggs in each clutch, sometimes laying as many as three clutches per season. A female will lay her eggs at night, coming up onto the beach and carefully digging a nest with her hind flippers. Incubation takes around 60 days and the hatchlings emerge, predominantly in the evening or at night, and swim out to sea.
*International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species
Hawksbill, Leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley turtles are Critically Endangered; Green and Loggerhead turtles are Endangered; Olive Ridley is Vulnerable and the Flatback is Data Deficient
Herbivorous or Piscivorous – Green turtles are the only vegetarian turtle, eating mainly seagrass and marine algae. The diets of the other six species vary and can include jellyfish, crabs, mollusks and sponges
Males spend their entire lives at sea, while females return to shore to lay their eggs
Around the globe, mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. All species migrate large distances between feeding and nesting sites each season
Sea turtle numbers have plummeted for a number of reasons.
Threats include exploitation for meat and other products, the disturbance of nesting beaches as a consequence of tourism development, light pollution, egg raiding by humans and predators, bycatch in the fishing industry, rising sea levels leading to a loss of nesting habitat, and disease.
Marine pollution is also a huge problem, as turtles can mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish and starve when their stomachs become full of plastic.
To support Sea Sense in Tanzania – working on the ground to protect turtles and conserve their natural habitats.