#OurWorld The Hawksbill Turtle
One of my favorite marine animals is the Hawksbill turtle. From its gorgeous colouring, to the slender beak-like mouth from which it gets its name, the Hawksbill is a stunning creature. Sadly, its beauty is also the reason for it being listed as critically endangered.
One of the smaller sea turtles, the Hawksbill can reach lengths of three feet and weigh up to 150lbs. They feed mostly on sponges on coral reefs, as well as sea anemone and small fish, using their slender beak to extract food from crevices and tight spaces.
There are several reasons for the decline in Hawksbill population, mostly due to human impact. However, the main reason is their much sought after, beautiful shell. Despite being protected by CITES, the ongoing poaching of the Hawksbills for their shells has depleted the species numbers drastically. Their shell–or carapace– is made up of beautifully coloured thick bony plates called scutes which are used to make tortoiseshell. Males have brighter colours to their shells, but many caught are nesting females. As Hawksbills can take twenty to thirty years to mature and become reproductive, the killing of females is particularly devastating to the population. Some young turtles are also caught and stuffed in order to be sold as unique and exotic gifts. That these creatures are killed in order to make a few trinket boxes or pieces of jewelry, is as sad as it is sickening.
Another reason for their decline is egg poaching and meat harvesting. As the Hawksbill come to land to lay their eggs, they are at high risk from nest plundering and capture. Egg poaching adds to the already heavily taxed reproduction cycle of the Hawksbill. Less females means less egg production, and less eggs lead to a depleted population, placing future generations at risk.
Another reason for depleting Hawksbill numbers is the rapid development of shoreline properties for tourism. This leads to the destruction of natural nesting grounds. Fishing bycatch is another reason for the depleting numbers. Caught in gillnets which drown them, many of the Hawksbill killed this way are juveniles, never to reach breeding age.
While today, many conservation efforts are in place to save this beautiful creature, the main reason for its failing is the illegal animal trade. While people marvel at the lovely colours in their tortoiseshell hair clips or trinket boxes, the true wonder of the Hawksbill turtle will always be the living examples, wild and free in our oceans.
I try to help save these creatures and others with my own contributions and efforts, which is why I included the Hawksbill in my Love Life series. The aim of my writing and drawing is to raise awareness of the plight of these, and other animals in danger. If one of my posts makes someone think twice about what they buy, or causes them to hit the share button, then perhaps more critically endangered animals can be saved.
For more information and ways to help:
IUCN red List
F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE
Posted on May 31, 2016, in #OurWorld, Frankeh Updates, Updates and tagged ARKIVE, CITES, conservation, critically endangered, endangered, Hawksbill, Hawksbill turtle, illegal, IUCN, Love Life, Marine, Our World, poching, Sea Turtle, species, trade, turtle, wildlife, wwf. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.