What is a reptile, old as a dinosaur, has a shell and can be found on land and sea? A sea turtle! To celebrate World Sea Turtle Day, here are a few fun facts about sea turtles and ways you can make a difference! There are seven species of sea turtles: green turtles, hawksbill turtles, leatherback turtles, loggerhead turtles, olive ridley turtles, and Kemp’s ridley turtles. Georgia Aquarium is home to a rescued green sea turtle named Tank. Be sure to say hello to him in our Ocean Voyager Built by Home Depot exhibit when you visit! Marineland Dolphin Adventure, a partner facility of Georgia Aquarium, is home to a loggerhead and a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
These ancient reptiles are truly exceptional in many ways. Sea turtles do not have teeth, instead, they use their hard jaws to chomp on food! Speaking of food, a sea turtle’s diet consists of jellyfish, clams, crabs, shrimp, and some vegetation. Sounds delicious! A sea turtle’s shell is also made up of over 50 bones.
Sea turtles are different from land turtles in that sea turtles can’t hide their head in their shell. This makes them vulnerable to their only predator, the shark. However, the shark is not the only threat to sea turtles. All sea turtles found in the U.S. are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is because of being accidentally captured in fishing gear, being hunted for food, habitat destruction, changing temperatures, boat strikes and disruption of nests. Without sea turtles, oceans are in deep, deep trouble. Sea turtles can provide nutrients to beaches, help diversify coral reefs, keep the ecosystem flowing smoothly, and are “lawn mowers” for seagrass beds!
Anyone can make an impact on sea turtles and save them from extinction. So what can you do to help?
- Learn about sea turtles. You’re already one step closer by reading this blog! By becoming more aware of sea turtles, you are mindful of the dangers sea turtles face. Now you can educate others on the importance of sea turtles. To learn more about sea turtles, you can visit Georgia Aquarium.
- Donate to sea turtle conservation. Sea turtle conservation works to protect sea turtles from human threats. Conservatories enforce laws protecting sea turtles, rescue, research and spread awareness about sea turtles. Donating to this worthy cause will ensure your contribution in making a tangible change. Georgia Aquarium partners with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in Jekyll Island, Ga. which is a sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and release conservatory. Learn more here.
- When at the beach, pick up trash and leave your space as you came. Human pollution causes health issues and disruptions for sea turtles. Trash may be blocking hatchling’s passage to the ocean and be confused as food. Building sandcastles and other structures in the sand can also hinder a hatchling’s safety and make it difficult for mother sea turtles to build nests. When leaving the beach, spread out sand and leave the beach as you came, if not cleaner.
- Lookout for sea turtle nests. Only 1 in 1,000 of baby sea turtles, or hatchlings, will survive. This overwhelming fact is because the journey is long and challenging for many hatchlings. Taking action to make hatchlings’ voyage a little less difficult will make a big difference. Sea turtle eggs are very sensitive and a target for many animal’s foods. By not disturbing nests and keeping lights off at the beach will decrease the threats to sea turtle hatchlings and aid them in making their trek to the ocean.
- Do not release balloons outside. Balloons can travel by wind to the ocean and are a choking hazard for many animals. Balloons can be entangled with animals which makes it difficult for sea turtles to swim.
Anyone of any age can assist sea turtles whether you’re at home or at the beach! These magnificent creatures are vital in keeping our oceans and beaches healthy. Visit the Georgia Aquarium to see these beautiful aquatic animals in action gliding through the water. Happy World Sea Turtle Day!
For more information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.