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Hawksbill turtle is the most common sea turtle that divers see in Gorontalo. Green sea turtles also live in local waters. Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, and Leatherback turtles are the other species found in Indo-Pacific oceans.
Identifying a Hawksbill Turtle
Both Green and Hawksbill turtles appear similar. However, certain features help identify both species. Hawksbills have two pairs of small scales between their eyes. These are called prefrontal scales. Green turtles have a single pair of large scales. Also, Hawksbill turtles have the distinctive hook on their beaks. Hence their common name. In addition, the large back plates on their shells overlap. As a result, the rear edges of the shell looks jagged. Those plates are called scutes. Overlapping scutes are called imbricated. Hence the scientific name Eretmochelys imbricata. Lastly, the Hawksbill turtle has two visible claws on each front flipper.
A larger turtle is more likely to be a Green sea turtle. Hawksbills found in the Indo-Pacific are smaller than those found in other tropical seas. Their size at maturity is only one meter in length. They also mature much more slowly, taking over thirty years.
The Hawksbill turtle prefers certain sponge species. It also eats jellyfish, tunicates, soft corals, crabs, squid, and fish. Surprisingly, this sea turtle is biofluorescent. Perhaps its diet of certain coral species makes it so. Also, this sea turtle will close its eyes when eating a jellyfish.
Threats to Hawksbill Sea Turtles
Eretmochelys imbricata is considered critically endangered. It is illegal internationally and in Indonesia to import or export turtle products. Also, it is illegal to harass, capture, or kill Hawksbill turtles.
All sea turtle species are threatened or endangered, according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Some sea turtles think floating plastic bags are jellyfish and eat them. Eating plastic will eventually kill the sea turtle by blocking breathing and digestion.
Nesting Sea Turtles
A female sea turtle will reach forty to sixty years in age before laying her first eggs. Breeding females will lay eggs every two years. They will lay these every two to three weeks. They lay 50 to 150 eggs each time. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings. Higher temperatures produce females, whereas lower temperatures produce males.
A female sea turtle will crawl onto a sandy beach at night. Then she will dig a hole to lay eggs and recover them. Scientists believe they return to the beach of their birth to lay eggs.
Baby turtles will hatch about two months of incubation. They will usually hatch about the same time. Then they crawl as quickly as possible to the sea. Many predators from birds to large fish eat baby sea turtles. The chances of surviving to adulthood are very small. Humans still collect eggs and hunt sea turtles. This is illegal in Indonesia.
Land turtle can pull head and flippers inside the shell. However, a sea turtle cannot. Also, sea turtles secret excess salt swallowed when eating via tears.
For your chance to see a Hawksbill turtle in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.