Here’s an incredible photo - this is a baby albino green sea turtle! It hatched on an Australian beach in 2016!
It is estimated that only 1 in 1000 hatchling Green Sea Turtles will survive to adulthood, sadly this beautiful animal faces even greater challenges than most. The loss of natural camouflage leaves albino wild animals more vulnerable to predators and makes them significantly more visible to their prey.
All joking aside, I have problems with wild caught box turtles for several reasons:
1) Collecting turtles/tortoises from the wild can actually be a lot worse than taking other reptiles. It’s usually adult animals that are collected and because of their slow life history strategy it is extremely damaging to remove sexually mature adults from a turtle population. The negative effects aren’t always immediately obvious since turtles have such long lifespan, but one study found that removing only a handful of adult females from a small box turtle population could doom it to a slow but inevitable extinction.
2) There are plenty of captive bred box turtle hatchlings available for sale (and lots of unwanted adults in need of new homes) so there is no reason to take them out of the wild. A captive bred turtle will be much more friendly towards humans, less stressed in captivity, and less likely to harbor disease or parasites.
3) Unfortunately many (if not most) people who have box turtles as pets do not keep them anywhere close to correctly. Many end up in undersized aquariums without proper substrate, humidity, heat, or lighting. If a person takes the time to find a breeder and buy a captive bred turtle they are more likely to also put the time in to do some research on their care (whereas if they just find and keep a wild one it’s more likely to be seen as a disposable whim).
I’m not gonna say it’s never ok to take any animal out of the wild. Ecologically responsible, small-scale collection of super common species for which captive bred individuals are not available (a lot of amphibians like bull frogs, tiger salamanders, and most toads are like this) is perhaps not ideal but I don’t think it’s morally reprehensible either. But unless you’re collecting an invasive species like a red eared slider I think wild turtle/tortoise collecting is almost never ok simply because their populations are so vulnerable to it.
More than half of the world’s turtle/tortoise species are threatened with extinction in some way and collection for the pet trade is a huge threat to many species. We should avoid being part of that problem.
It’s that time of the year - the time of the year when turtles are out and about, crossing roadways to breed or lay eggs, and - soon - hatching from said eggs and making their journey to their habitat. It’s also the time of the year when turtles, already suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation, are frequently picked up by people of both good and bad intentions, and disrupted during this crucial time in their reproductive lives.
Here are a few tips for not being an asshole when you encounter a turtle: 1. If it is not in danger or distress, leave it alone. I promise it doesn’t want to be in your selfie, nor does it want to be hassled, relocated, or “helped” into the nearest waterway. Turtles have been around for billions of years; they know what they’re doing. Give them space. 2. If it is in the road, and you can safely stop, please help it cross in the direction it was heading. Then follow step one and leave it alone. 3. If it is tiny and seems impossibly small and helpless in the big ugly world… follow step one and leave it alone. Turtle hatchlings are indeed small, but it doesn’t mean they are too small to survive without your intervention. Unless it is in danger or distress, trust that the baby turtle knows where it is heading and is, in fact, on an important species survival mission that must not be interrupted by you, no matter how omgcute it is. 4. If it IS in danger or distress, contact your local wildlife agency for information on how to proceed and contacts for wildlife rehabilitators. In many states, turtles are protected by law and even injured or infirm turtles can not be legally housed by anyone but a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. And if a turtle is injured or infirm, its absolute BEST chance at survival is in the capable hands of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. 5. Do not ever remove a turtle from the wild to keep as a pet. Even if it’s tiny and cute. Even if it’s big and cool. Even if it was crossing the road. Even if it showed up in your yard. As mentioned above, many turtle species are protected by law, and even those that aren’t? Deserve to be out there in nature, living and breeding. If you want a pet turtle, responsibly obtain a captive bred specimen from a breeder (after doing your research). Or, adopt a turtle from a reptile rescue - trust me, as someone who rescues turtles, there are a TON of them needing qualified homes.
Aliases: Green Turtle, Black Sea Turtle, Pacific Green Turtle
Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
Size: Adults can reach up to 5 feet long (1.5 meters).
Weight: Adults can weigh up to 150 - 419 pounds (68 - 190 kilograms).
Carapace Length (Shell): Adults on average have a shell length between 31 - 44 inches (78 - 112 centimeters).
Gender Differences: Males have a slightly longer tail and are overall larger than females in size. Males also have longer claws on their front flippers. However, both do have paddle-like flippers which aid in their swimming.
Lifespan (Wild): Green Sea Turtles that reach maturity can live for roughly 80 years.
Diet: Juvenile Green Sea Turtles are initially carnivorous (diet consists mainly or exclusively of meat) eating things like mollusks (snails and clams), sponges, algae, and even fish eggs. As they’re maturing, they’ll incorporate plants into their diet and are considered omnivorous (diet consists of both meats and plants). Once they’re fully-grown adults, most of them are herbivores and have cut out meat in their diets due to their serrated jaw (saw-like) which helps them chew plant life like various sea grasses and algae.
Group: A group of Sea Turtles is called a bale.
-Habitat and Lifestyle-
Life Cycle: Almost everyone knows that Sea Turtles hatch from eggs that are laid on beaches in Southeast Asia, India, western Pacific islands, and Central America. One of the most dangerous events in a Sea Turtle’s life happens as soon as they hatch. As they attempt to flee into the ocean they may be attacked by predators like birds and crabs; a big percentage of hatchlings won’t make it to the water. Juveniles who did make it to the water spend anywhere from 3 - 5 years in the deep ocean. After their years of exploration, the juveniles will find shallow watered areas to call home for the rest of their days. Sadly, estimations say that only about 1% of Sea turtle hatchlings will make it to sexual maturity which occurs after about 20 - 50 years. Finally, once mating occurs the female will breach the ocean’s surface past the high tide line of the beach to lay her eggs. She then returns back to the sea.
Breeding: Mating occurs every 2 - 4 years.
Gender Deciding Factors: Nests in areas above 30 degrees Celsius tend to favor female hatchlings whereas areas below 30 degrees Celsius tend to favor male hatchlings. Egg positioning also plays a role in whether a hatchling may be male or female. If the egg is more towards the center of the nest then it has a higher chance of resulting in a female hatchling due to the center being warmer.
Number of Eggs per Nest: Each nest will contain about 110 eggs.
Number of Nests per Season: On average, a female Sea Turtle can create 2 - 8 nests in a single season.
Habitats: Generally, Green Sea Turtles stay near island and continental coastlines. Depending on their stage in life, Green Sea Turtles can be found in many different types of environments. Younger juveniles can be found in the open ocean as they spend years swimming around before they settle down. Older juveniles and mature adults will find permanent residence in areas that are more shallow like coral reefs, seagrass beds near shore, and salt marshes. These areas are generally good spots for protecting the turtles. Globally, you can find Sea Turtles in warm tropical waters to subtropical waters.
-Role in the Ecosystem and Endangerment-
Ecosystem Roles: In the varying areas Sea Turtles can be found, they have a strikingly powerful role to play in each. For instance, on the beaches where their eggs lay cracked and empty, key nutrients are given to the ecosystem through the eggshells. For the turtles located in the seagrass beds, they feed on the seagrass and in doing so they improve the health and development of the seagrass; this in turn results in a suitable habitat and place for feeding for various species of fish and crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, barnacles, crayfish, etc).
Conservation Status: Green Sea Turtles are listed as Endangered whereas some subpopulations in the Mediterranean are listed as Critically Endangered. Some human-caused threats include being hunted, poached, and having their eggs collected. Whereas accidental threats like boats, pollution, habitat destruction, and fishing nets are reducing the population as well.
This Spiny Turtle (Heosemys spinosa) hatching from its egg at our conservation center is pretty darn cute! However, it is listed as endangered due to illegal trade and habitat destruction. Please help us ensure a future for this little guy and countless others!
A critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle hatchling (Eretmochelys imbricata), about three inches long, paddles away from shore under the protective cover of dusk. Cuba banned the harvest of sea turtles in 2008. By David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes
Sorry I just forgot to pack you, I left in sorta hurry. And to be honest, who thinks of
taking a diary to a beautiful atoll research station?
So, dear Diary, what haven’t I told you.
Firstly, my wrist is nearly healed, only home now for my appointment
in Wellington on Tuesday and to check my bros haven’t wrecked Four whilst I was away.
And where have I been?
Only to Peros Banhos Atoll Strict Nature Reserve!
Sorry, you don’t understand, Diary? Well, it’s easy to explain why I was just so
damned blown away by the opportunity to go, this is only like the most reserved
of all protected nature reserves. Hardly anyone ever gets to go,
not even for research.
So why me? Well I’ve
still got friends and contacts from WASP Research that remember me fondly, fortunately. Benjie Conners called me, asked if I was free
for a couple of weeks, he needed someone he could trust to go with him and two
others under licence to Ile Yeye
(Chagos Archipelago in the India Ocean), to complete their disturbed research from two years
ago. They had their licences and access permits
voided when one of them got drunk one night.
This is like the plumiest of plum research jobs, what the
hell was the guy thinking getting drunk?
But it meant I got an opportunity of a life time.
It was dry research. (Just
as well as I had to tell him I’m in a cast (not that it actually stopped me from getting in the water)).
They are still trying to work out how the natural light effects
Hawksbill Turtle hatchlings (Eretmochelys Imbricata) to only emerge after dark. It’s been a mystery for centuries.
Personally I think they have a modicum of common sense
inbuilt in their genes that tells them they can’t be seen by predators so easily at night,
but hey who am I to suggest such a thing to those who know soooooo much more
than I do.
Well I lay on my belly in the sand every night for over 4
weeks watching these little sweeties dragging themselves out of the sand and
still can’t say any different. We’d been
granted permission to finish the earlier research which offered the nest sites different light
throughout the electromagnetic spectrum but what did we learn?
That the little blighters wait til dark and then run like
Sorry, no, really there was serious research going on here,
it’s important stuff. In places where
there is light pollution, the hatchlings head off towards street and town
light, dying from dehydration in sunlight the next day or from exhaustion swimming
in circles trapped in storm drains. If we
can understand what light triggers their senses, telling them to break the surface of the sand at night, then perhaps we can increase the population of these endearing
creatures. This is a subject close to my
heart, they have got to be one of the most gentle beings on our planet, we ought to help if we can. And that’s why I put my whole heart and soul into the research and I’ve
come home with tons of data to work on for myself that will last me a year at
But I guess the cast comes off in a couple of days. Then I can
really start getting fit again and will be back on rescues before I know it.
My month on Ile Yeye was like a dream. It is such a beautiful place, even after the
storms that broke through the sand bar.
I did dive virtually every day (damned waterproof sleeve got abandoned
after a while, the cast is a wreck). The reefs there are so very perfect,
undisturbed, but then we were restricted where we could dive.
SO BEAUTIFUL, SO BLUE, LIKE PARADISE WITH TURTLES.
Lost in Light II is a short film showing how light pollution affects night skies using one of the most prominent constellations - The Orion. The success and reach of my previous film(vimeo.com/srirammurali/LostinLight) - made the news in over 40 countries and published on National Geographic, inspired me to make a follow up to help people even better relate to night skies and further raise awareness on light pollution.
One thing I realized from my last film was that people were able to relate to the difference between the light pollution levels but not the Milky Way itself. The Milky Way appears more colorful to a camera than it does to our eyes and most people haven’t seen it. But, the Orion is a more common sight. It’s a great subject to help explain light pollution.