7 September 2017

Seychelles: Five Cool Turtle Species You Can See in Seychelles

Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, provides fertile feeding grounds for five species of turtles. The islands are nesting grounds for only two species who according to local expert Jeanne Mortimer find the Seychelles safe enough to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles in Seychelles are protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act, and the poaching and killing of the species are illegal.

While the species nesting in Seychelles can be seen often, the others are not so easy to find.

SNA details the five species that feed in the islands.

Hawksbill

Named because of their narrow pointed beaks, hawksbill turtles lay their eggs in daylight in Seychelles. Seychellois turtle expert Jeanne Mortimer said that the nesting sites of this species have been exploited so much globally that Seychelles and Chagos islands -- 1,500 kilometres east of Seychelles -- are the only two places where they "feel safe enough" to nest in daytime.

The best islands for visitors to see nesting hawksbills are Bird, Denis, Cousin, Cousine, North, Alphonse and Fregate islands. Also in the south of Mahe and at Lemuria Hotel on Praslin. Juvenile (foraging) hawksbills can be seen throughout Seychelles underwater when snorkelling or SCUBA diving.

Hawksbill is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due mostly to human impact. The species grow up to about 114 centimetres in shell length and 68 kilograms in weight and have a strikingly coloured carapace and while young.

Green turtle

This species is also listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) red list. The adult green turtles are most likely seen in the outer islands like the Amirantes group and a few nest in the inner islands, but they are very rare. The best place to see them is Aldabra, Cosmoledo, Astove, and Farquhar atolls.

Like the hawksbill, juvenile (foraging) green turtles can be seen throughout Seychelles underwater when snorkelling or SCUBA diving.

The second largest after the leatherback, the green turtle can weigh up to 225 kilos and reach 1.2 metres in length. The adult is a herbivore, dining on sea grasses, seaweeds, algae and other forms of marine plant life.

The species are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites. Green turtles travel huge distances between their feeding sites and nesting sites, with mature turtles often returning to the exact beach from where they hatched.

Loggerhead

Loggerhead turtles are the most abundant of all the marine turtle but persistent population declines due to pollution, and development in their nesting areas, among other factors, have kept this species on the threatened list since 1978.

The species is named for its large head that supports powerful jaw muscles, allowing it to crush hard-shelled prey like clams and sea urchins. Loggerheads are less likely to be hunted for their meat or shell compared to other sea turtles.

It is listed as Endangered and facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The greatest threat is the loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development, predation of nests, and human disturbances.

Leatherback

Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, growing up to around two metres and exceeding 900 kg. It is the only remaining representatives of a family of turtles that traces its evolutionary roots back more than 100 million years.

While all other sea turtles have hard, bony shells, the inky-blue carapace of the leatherback is somewhat flexible and almost rubbery to the touch hence its name. They can be found in the tropic and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, the Indian Ocean as well as the Mediterranean Sea.

The species is able to maintain warm body temperatures in cold water by using a unique set of adaptations that allow them to both generate and retain body heat. Many leatherbacks meet an early end due to human activity.

Last year, rangers working on the Seychelles' island of Aride had to free a leatherback turtle trapped in a device used to attract fish.

Olive Ridley

The olive ridley named for the generally greenish colour of its skin and shell or carapace is the smallest of the sea turtles, weighing up to 45 kg and reaching only about 60 centimetres in shell length. Olive ridleys are found only in warmer waters, including the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

These turtles are solitary, preferring the open ocean and migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles every year, and come together as a group only once when females return to the beaches where they hatched and lumber onshore, sometimes in the thousands, to nest.

Although the species is widely considered the most abundant of the sea turtles, by all estimates, it is in trouble as its numbers, particularly in the western Atlantic, have declined precipitously.

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