Sea turtles are incredible animals. According to Maryke Musson, former CEO of The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation (a Non-Profit and Public Benefit Organisation), they are very clever creatures that represent wisdom and care, and people really connect with them, which is what makes them the most incredible ocean ambassadors as well as fulfilling a vital role in the marine habitat.
Seven different species of sea (or marine) turtles grace our oceans. green, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and olive ridley, flatback and Kemps ridley. Sadly, all species are now classified as endangered, with three of the seven existing species being critically endangered. Captured for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and can also be caught up accidently in carelessly discarded fishing gear.
Spending most of their lives in the ocean, these migratory species come ashore periodically to either bask or nest. Five of the species can be seen along the African coastline which makes it a very special place indeed, so the shores of Mozambique where one of the Peace Parks project is based, is a great place to watch these magnificent creatures when they do come ashore to nest. It is in fact only the nesting females that ever return to shore, and what is amazing is that they return to the area where they were born, to the very same beach.
Once hatched, there is no parental care at all, the hatchlings are on their own. Weighing in at about 18 grams they are small enough to fit into the palm of a hand, so they are pretty vulnerable. The years that follow are called the ‘lost years’ because not much is known about where exactly these hatchlings go. What we do know is that they follow the warm currents around the world, eventually heading back home to reproduce.
What’s incredible about sea turtles is they can live a very long time, over 80 years. But the chances of a little hatchling surviving to maturity is only one or two out of a thousand, which is big reason turtle conservation is so important.
Another fascinating fact about sea turtles is that they can hold their breath for a very long time: up to around seven hours! So, they are reptiles, needing to go the surface to breathe, but able to hold their breath when they need to sleep. Incredible animals.