A Day in My Life
Sea turtles are found in almost every ocean and sea on earth. They range as far north as Alaska and Scotland and as far south as the southern tip of Argentina. Turtles are not found in the Arctic or Antarctic oceans as these environments are far too cold for reptiles. The largest turtles are found in warm equatorial waters.
Turtles are among the largest reptiles and the green sea turtle can reach two thousand pounds. Like most large animals, turtles spend most of their time finding and eating food. Different species of sea turtles have different diets that vary from strictly herbivore to completely carnivore and many turtles will eat almost anything. Typically, turtles will eat fish, shellfish, jellyfish and sea grasses.
Feeding grounds are often in fragile environments such as coral reefs and sea grass beds. Endangered sea turtles are experiencing habitat loss as pollution and sediment from construction spill into the ocean and destroy these delicate ecosystems.
Feeding grounds can be located hundreds, sometime thousands, of miles from nesting grounds. Sea turtles have a remarkable sense of direction and are able to return across the ocean, to the same beach, every breeding season.
The female sea turtle breeds with the male in shallow waters and later comes onto the beaches to lay her eggs. The male turtle may never leave the ocean. Once the female sea turtle lays her eggs, she buries them in the sand so that they are hidden and protected. She leaves the eggs and returns to the sea. When the baby sea turtles hatch, they will fend for themselves. Instinct tells them to go to the sea and they make their way down the beach. This is the most dangerous time of a sea turtle's life and nine out of ten new turtles are killed by predators. Before they even get to the ocean, they may be picked off by birds or eaten by raccoons. Once in the water they are in danger of being eaten by large fish.
Turtles do not adapt easily to dangers in their nesting grounds. They are unable to assess the safety of their beaches before they are ready to lay their eggs. Instinct tells them to return to the same nesting grounds over and over again, regardless of what changes humans have made to the beach through construction or industry. When you adopt a turtle, you provide financial support for turtle conservation projects that focus on preserving the nesting grounds.
Facts About Me
- People are always asking me about my shell. It's pretty amazing. It's not like the shells that you see on hermit crabs or snails. Those animals don't have skeletons. I have a skeleton that is actually a lot like yours, just shaped differently. Do you know that you have little bones that run down from the back of your neck, and then rib bones that protect your heart and lungs? That's called your rib cage. I also have a rib cage. My shell does not come off of me like you see in cartoons. The bones in my rib cage are flattened out and very close to each other like armour. This is what gives me a strong shell.
- The skin on my shell is made of scales. The scales are made of keratin. Rhino horns and your fingernails are also made from keratin. When I grow, I get new scales and the old ones fall off.
- My species is really old. Sea turtles have been swimming the seas for over a hundred million years. We've been around longer than most dinosaurs. In fact, some of our fossils are thirty million years older than T-Rex. In fact, our shells probably evolved so that we could protect ourselves from dinosaurs.
- I can lay hundreds of eggs at once but almost none of them will survive. Many people take the eggs and sell them as food, even in places where no one is hungry. Once the eggs hatch, baby turtles crawl across the beach to the ocean. During this journey, they are very visible to birds of prey. Have you ever fed bread to the birds at a beach? Did you notice that there may only be one or two birds when you start but there's a lot more by the time you're done? That's because the birds can see each other feeding from miles away in the sky and they all come to where the food is. That's what happens when our baby turtles hatch. The sky fills up with birds that are looking for food. It's pretty easy for them to pluck a baby turtle off the beach. Most baby turtles end up getting eaten. Only a few are lucky enough to get to the ocean.
- One of my favourite foods is jellyfish. A lot of times I see a plastic bag floating in the ocean and I go after it because it looks like a jellyfish. If I eat plastic, I can't digest it. Plastic stays in our stomachs and keeps us from digesting real food properly. Sometimes we get sick and die from this.
- Our species needs protection otherwise we might become extinct. Many zoos are trying to help save the turtles. Sometimes people adopt a turtle. This is a way to help save the turtles by supporting programs that make it safer for us to lay our eggs and help clean up the ocean so that we don't eat bad things or get caught in fishing nets.
Why I need your help
After successfully surviving for over a hundred million years, endangered sea turtles are now under threat of extinction because of human impact on their environment. Of the seven species of sea turtle, six are considered to be endangered or critically endangered.
Turtles are still killed for their shells. Poachers capture the turtles as they come ashore to nest. The shells are preserved and sold to tourists as grisly souvenirs.
Poachers also harvest the eggs from turtle nests. The eggs are sold in restaurants and stores where they are considered a great delicacy.
Construction, development and run-off are destroying the shallow sea grass fields and coral reefs where turtles find their food. When buildings are constructed, rock and soil are excavated and become unstable. Rain washes sediment from construction into the ocean where it pollutes the turtle's feeding grounds. Paved areas like roads and parking lots also create run-off that carries oils from cars into the water. This pollution doesn't kill the turtles directly. It can destroy the plants and animals that turtles eat.
Landfill run-off carries fragmented plastics into the ocean. Turtles mistake the plastic for food and are unable to digest it. The amount of plastic in their stomachs grows until they are unable to digest their real food.
Fishing and boating also pose serious threats to the turtles. Fishermen are often attracted to the same areas as the fish-eating turtles. The turtles get caught in the fishing nets and are drowned. Turtles normally swim near the surface of the ocean where they are often killed by boat propeller accidents.
Turtle conservation projects focus on monitoring endangered sea turtles. They support fishermen in poor countries so that they use equipment that is less likely to hurt sea turtles. These programs are helping to save the turtles by educating government about land development issues that affect nesting and feeding grounds. They also work to end the illegal poaching of turtles and their eggs.
Where to Find Me
The turtle population can be found in the following regions and oceans of the world.
- Atlantic Ocean
- Gulf of Mexico
- Indian Ocean
- Pacific Ocean
Your Turtle Adoption Pack
When you adopt a turtle with WWF you get a great adoption pack for yourself or to give to a loved one.
Adopt and receive:
Adopt a Turtle Today with WWF
- A cuddly turtle toy.
- Gift pack with a certificate, print of your turtle, greetings card plus loads of information on your animal and how you can live a more environmentally friendly life.
- Regular updates with Wild-Word magazine delivered to your door 3 times a year. This is packed with information about how the WWF's great conservation work with turtles and other animals is helping to protect endangered species.