Making headlines this week in Kota Kinabalu are Marine Turtles – dead ones, illegally caught by poaching boats from China and Indonesia. This frustrating and sad news along with finding a dead Green Turtle, killed by a speed boat engine has inspired us to post a news item reminding readers of the dangers these adorable creatures face in our world today.
Marine Turtles have roamed our oceans for 185 million years with only one natural predator – the Tiger Shark. Amazingly they survived the mass extinction of dinosaurs to face and even greater threat – Man !
WWF’s Endangered Species list includes the Green Turtle, Hawksbill, Kemps Ridley, Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtle.
Sexual maturity comes late, most turtles will not mate until at least the age of 25 years old some much later, and a great number are killed before they reach this age reducing their numbers to the point of critical depletion.
They face numerous threats; their meat, eggs and oil are sought after for human consumption and seen as a delicacy in parts of Asia. Their shells, especially the Hawksbill is beautiful and used to make jewellery and household ornaments. Although they are a protected species in many waters as we’ve seen this week there is still great demand for their body parts to the point where poachers are willing to risk jail and hefty fines to bring back the catch.
Many become entangled in fishing nets, long line nets and drown. Some are hit by speed boats as they surface for air.
Turtles accidentally swallow plastic bags, which block up their digestive system. Cigarette butts, which are toxic are often thrown into the ocean – even by Divers ! If a turtle swallows one of these they will more than likely die.
In recent years dead turtles have been found with grapefruit size tumors, the cause of which is uncertain but most likely a result of increased chemical pollutants in our oceans.
It’s a sad state of affairs, perhaps awareness and education can help save our Turtles and each of us can make a small difference.
Do not buy or support any outlet selling turtle products.
Take a rubbish net diving and collect any plastic bags you might find, ensuring that nothing is living in them before you ball them up. If you don’t have a net just put them in your BCD pocket, just one bag can make a difference.
If you see anyone throw cigarette butts into any body of water, inform them of the consequence should a turtle or other marine creature swallow their butt. Usually when people are educated about the cigarettes toxicity, next time they finish their smoke they’ll dispose of it differently.
If you’re diving or snorkeling in an area known for turtles and the dive boat you’re on is going too fast to avoid an ascending turtle, ask the driver to slow down and explain why.
If you visit a region and rubbish in ocean alarms you, say something, make your thoughts known to the tourist board.
When guests and tourists complain, this is the voice thats heard as this is where the money comes from.
For More Information on Marine Turtles please visit our Turtle Marine Biology page.