They’ve been around since the dinosaurs and can date their ancestry back to 110 million years ago. These majestic marine animals lay their eggs on land and the hatchlings follow the shimmering light of the moon on the ocean to guide them back to their home… They are Sea turtles! Truly magnificent creatures and Madagascar is one of the best places to spot them, either while snorkelling or perhaps even on an evening beach walk. Read on to learn more fascinating facts about these majestic animals.
There are seven different species of sea turtles in our ocean waters, from the Indian Ocean to the Eastern Pacific. These stunning creatures are well adjusted to the sea though they need air to breath. Depending on the species, sizes vary greatly e.g. the small Kemp’s Ridley turtle, which weighs between 35 – 45 kg, or the enormous leatherback, which can weigh more than 450 kg. In Madagascar, there are 5 species of sea turtle, 3 of which are endangered.
LIFE & HABITAT
Sea turtles are found in almost every ocean around the world, and nest on tropical and subtropical beaches. They travel vast distances to feed, and even cross entire oceans. The sea is their home and they only ever come ashore to nest and lay eggs.
Madagascar is an important nesting ground for Green sea turtles, Hawksbill sea turtles, Loggerhead sea turtles, and Olive Ridley sea turtles. Female sea turtles return to the exact beach they were born and come ashore to dig a hole with their flippers to make a nest. While they are laying their eggs they go into a trance. The hatchlings emerge after about 60 days and make their way back to the ocean guided by the reflection of the moon on the water.
It is difficult to find population numbers for sea turtles because male and juvenile sea turtles do not return to shore once they hatch and reach the ocean, which makes it hard to keep track of them.
However, we do know that Sea Turtles numbers are decreasing because less and less sea turtles are being born. This is due to issues such as rising temperatures, sea turtle sex is influenced by the temperature of the sand the eggs are buried in as temperatures rise only female turtles are hatching with fewer males to mate with.
DANGERS TO THE SEA TURTLES
Furthermore, the sea turtles have to face many dangers as they travel the seas, including accidental capture and entanglement in fishing gear, the loss of nesting and feeding sites to coastal development, poaching, and ocean pollution including plastic.
Human activities have tipped the scales against the survival of this old species. Nearly all of the sea turtles are classified as endangered. That is why we should start thinking about and pay more attention to these beautiful animals!
Learn more about Madagascar’s diverse and unique wildlife: