Creature Feature: Hawksbill Turtle

I love turtles.  Who doesn’t?

Despite being critically endangered, we have had an encounter with one of these beauties on every dive trip that we have been on so far.  They can generally be found around shallow coral reefs, usually swimming into the current or munching coral.  They aren’t particularly shy either, especially if they have found something to eat; they will happily allow you to get a few snaps of them!

Hawksbills, like many species of turtles, are travellers.  They have a very wide range, so can be found in many different parts of the world.  Like other turtles, Hawksbills nest in a relatively small number of places, and have to drag themselves up a beach to dig a hole in which to bury their eggs.

They differ from other varieties of turtle in a number of ways:

  • Hawksbills have a distinctive bird-like, pointed beak, that makes it look like the turtle has an overbite
  • On their shells, the scutes (segments or scales) overlap, and are often streaked with colour
  • Their shells consist of five central scutes, with four either side
  • They also have two claws on each of their front flippers

Unfortunately, this amazing species of turtle is critically endangered, mainly due to human activity.  Turtle eggs are still eaten by humans worldwide, and their shells provide the only source of commercial tortoiseshell, used for making jewellery ad ornaments.  Like many other sea creatures, the Hawksbill turtle is susceptible to being caught in fishing nets and on errant fishing hooks (bycatch).  There are conservation efforts to reduce the amount of bycatch, and reduce and eliminate the trade in tortoiseshell products and wildlife products.  Hawksbills are also being tagged and tracked to better understand migration routes and feeding patterns, and help identify better ways to protect this amazing species.

To find out more about the Hawksbill turtle, and conservation efforts, see the links below:

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