Five species of sea turtles inhabit the waters of Sri Lanka. All of which are at risk of disappearing, unless something is done to protect them.
Sri Lanka’s sea turtles are considered a national gem. The five species found in Sri Lankan waters; the Green, Leatherback, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and the Hawksbill sea turtle are all frequent the islands southern beaches. Sea turtles spend most of their lives in water, but come ashore occasionally to lay their eggs. Their local nesting areas in Sri Lanka stretch from Mount Lavinia, down the west coast, across the south coast, and up to Arugam Bay on the east coast.
Sea turtles are globally threatened, many species are now facing extinction. Though the turtles’ natural habitat spans all three temperate oceans, the animals’ populations have collapsed in recent years due to numerous factors. Natural causes are not thought to be contributing to their drop in numbers; large turtles have very few predators, and only sharks, large fish, crocodiles, killer whales, and sometimes octopuses will attack an adult. Many species of fish and crabs, however, prey upon young turtles.
The key players in the decline of the sea turtle population, as usual when discussing animal population destructions, are human beings. Many people throughout the world hunt adult turtles for their meat and fat. Nesting green turtle females, which are the most common species in Sri Lanka, are often killed for their meat, which is considered a delicacy throughout much of Asia. Turtle soup continues to be all too common across the region.
Un-hatched turtle eggs are widely considered tasty treats and, to some, aphrodisiacs. People take hundreds of thousands of eggs from local beaches each year.
Some local people hunt turtles for their shells. The Hawksbill turtle, which is critically endangered, was the main source of tortoiseshell material until laws eliminated the trade. But people still poach these turtles and sell the shells.
However, the unintentional harm that people inflict on sea turtles might be even more damaging. Countless animals are entangled and perish in fishing nets each year. Boats also strike many as they swim near the surface. Pollution, both physical and chemical, also harms turtles. A major factor in turtle deaths is the huge increase of plastic in the oceans. Adults often eat jellyfish, and they often mistake plastic bags for prey. Man-made chemicals also affect the turtles, causing fertility issues and tumours.
Central to the turtles’ decline is habitat and nesting site destruction, two issues that are becoming more severe in Sri Lanka as the country’s coastline develops. As once-secluded beaches host more visitors and resorts encroach on their nesting areas, turtles have little recourse to reproduce in other areas.
In order for the turtles to survive in Sri Lanka despite the aforementioned challenges, stakeholders must launch numerous wide-ranging conservation projects. The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka has partnered with Galbokka Sea Turtle Conservation which focuses on protecting and rehabilitating endangered sea turtles while promoting healthy oceans.
For more information on Responsible Travel within Sri Lanka, contact the team at The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka; proudly a 100% Sri Lankan owned & operated travel company approved by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority
Source: Sri Lanka Superyachts
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