Essay on Sea Turtles

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:Other

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What kinds of sea turtles are there? There are basically seven different species of marine turtles, also known as sea turtles and six out of the seven inhabit U. S. waters. The Flatback sea turtles which have a scientific name (Natator depressus) are found along the coastal region of Australia. The main focus of this paper will be on the remaining six species, the green sea turtle with the scientific name (Chelonia mydas), the hawksbill turtle which is referred to as (Eretmochelys imbricata) scientifically, Kemp ridley marine turtle also referred to as (Lepidochelys kemplii) scientifically, leatherback marine turtle referred to as (Dermochelys coriacea) scientifically, loggerhead sea turtle referred to as (Caretta caretta) scientifically, and olive ridley sea turtle with the scientific name (Lepidochelys olivacea). All of these species of the sea turtles were declared endangered species by the Endangered Species for the past 3 decades. Why are sea turtles important? Sea turtles have been playing an important part by ensuring a healthy floor of the oceans for more than 100 million years. They help in maintaining seagrass beds, coral reefs, transporting nutrients from the seas to beaches. They provide food for other organisms (including humans). They provide habitats for sea vegetation and animals on their shells. They control the distribution of sponges and ensuring transportation of nutrients from one place to another. Sea turtles lay eggs which are very nutritious to predators and also to the sea vegetation. They attract tourists and hence they promote ecotourism sector. By attracting tourists, they generate income through foreign exchange thus promoting economic well being of a country.

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They provide food for big fish such as whale and sharks. They help in balancing ocean ecosystems since they feed on prey that has hard shells. They, therefore, help in the disintegration of larges shells, therefore, making it easy for decomposition of such shells. Common threats to sea turtle populations Threats that all species of sea turtles share are alteration and destruction of feeding and nesting habitats, entanglement in marine debris and vessel strikes. Sea turtles also face the threat of poaching and being exploited; they are slaughtered for their shells, eggs, skin, and meat. Climate change also has a dramatic impact nesting grounds; it alters the temperature of the sand and affects the sex of the hatchlings. Adult green sea turtles only eat plants meaning they are herbivorous and that makes them unique among the other sea turtle varieties.

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It is thought that the reason for their greenish cartilage and fat for which they are named is due to them feeding primarily on seagrass and algae. Contributions to the marine ecosystem: The green sea turtles diet of seagrass plays an important role in this ecosystem, without these large herbivores to essentially "mow" the seagrass beds with their frequent grazing, the seagrass beds become long and begin to create obstruction and also create shade on the ocean floor. The seagrass then begins to decompose which provides a satisfactory habitat for slime moulds to begin to grow. When green sea turtles forage on the seagrass, they crop it a few centimetres from the bottom, allowing the older portions to float away resulting in a decrease in nitrogen being supplied to the seagrass roots.

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Their exploitation has also significantly reduced in most countries through government intervention. Due to its poisonous meat and eggs which causes a severe sensation, diarrhoea, and vomiting and eventually lead to death, consumption of green sea turtles and their exploitation has gradually reduced. WWF is providing residents living near green turtle nests with alternative livelihoods to ensure that they stop depending wholly on these turtles. By so doing, these local communities will have other sources of income and stop harvesting green turtles for their meat and eggs. Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) General facts: Hawksbill turtle often grows to the size of 300 pounds and three feet in length, though they tend to average about 176 pounds or less and two and a half feet in length. They also ensure free circulation of gases within the sea water when they consume oxygen within the water and give out carbon dioxide which is used by some plants which grow in the sea.

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This ensures proper maintenance of the marine ecosystem. Their shells are used to make pieces of jewellery. Threats: Hawksbill turtles face a threat by the loss of feeding habitats and nesting habitats. They also face the high level of egg collection from human beings and other predators, high level of mortality rate, pollution of the marine ecosystem and also developments taking place within the coastal areas such as constructions of buildings near the shores. WWF also train rangers with skills of protecting turtles from poaching through patrolling nesting beaches. Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kemplii) General facts: One of the smallest marine turtles is the Kemp's ridley marine turtle. The matured ones can weigh about 100 pounds and around two feet in length. The adult carapace is oval and is wide and long with an olive-grey colour; the hatchlings are usually black in the two regions.

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The Kemp's ridley sea turtles feed in shallow water benthic communities and have a diet primarily of crabs. Threats: Kemp's Ridley Sea turtle face threats such as pollution, turtle injury, death occurring from commercial injuries, gas and oil exploration, marine human development, explosions occurring underwater, artificial lighting and thunders taking place offshores, poaching, hook and line fishing, incidental capture, consumption of their meat and eggs, climate change, boat collision and oil spillage. Encroachment of the shores by human beings poses a threat to the turtles and trade of their products. Conservation efforts being made: Development of smart satellite devices is being done to monitor the movement of these sea turtles. Also, smart gears competitions are being carried out which aim at developing ideas and skills that will bring to an end the poaching of Kemp's ridley sea turtles.

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Measures such as raising awareness on the importance of conserving sea turtles are being done by organizations and volunteers. The conservation process of Leatherback sea turtles has led to the growth of ecotourism sector which offer job opportunities which leads to improved standards of living and also generates income through tourists attraction. Threats: They face the threat of extinction since most of them have died. They often lose their habitats since most of them depend on the beach for nesting purposes. Human activities such as the construction of buildings along the beaches affect their hatching process. They feed on coral reefs and seagrass and the continued destruction of sea plantation pose a threat to the existence of these turtles. They have a lifespan of about 30 years to 50 years. Most of Loggerhead sea turtles die from drowning since they require to breathe frequently.

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They are mainly found in Coastal East of Africa, Gulf of California, Coral Triangle and Mesoamerican Reef. Contributions to marine ecosystems: Loggerhead Sea turtles feed on preys with hard shells which ensure vital nutrients are recycled thereby ensuring maintenance of the ocean surface sediments on the same level. This is because they are able to crack hard shells of such organisms thereby assisting them to decompose faster. Loggerheads sea turtles meat is sold in black markets while their shells are used to make items such as boat paddles. Sharks and large fish living in oceans feed on them posing a threat of their extinction throughout their entire lifetime. Conservation efforts being made: There has been a move to develop a smart gear to eliminate bycatch problems and attract new ideas such as fishermen using friendly fishing hooks that do not harm the turtles thereby solving poaching problems.

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Satellite devices are being developed and used to trace the movement of these turtles so that it is easy to know their feeding and nesting habitats and detect any attempts to poach them. Loggerheads sea turtles can also be conserved by avoiding beach fires and avoid beach lighting during their nesting periods. Contributions to marine ecosystems: They ensure proper maintenance of coral reefs and seagrass. They also contribute to proper aeration of the sea through nutrient transportation thereby ensuring healthy maintenance of the ecosystems. Olive ridley sea turtles provide food for their predators thus contributing positively to the ecosystem. They also provide nutrients to sea vegetation when they die and decompose. They also feed on seagrass and coral reefs thereby maintaining the ecosystem. Retarded growth rate and late sexual reproduction hinder increased population recovery and also makes it difficult to determine population trends of the sea turtles.

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Conservation efforts being made: To ensure that successful conservation measures for Olive ridley sea turtles, communities living near shores should be made aware through student volunteers and other organizations on the importance of conserving Olive ridley turtles. This will assist in reducing the mortality rates of the male adults. Governments in some counties are banning fishing activities along the shores during the nesting period. In other areas, patrolling along the beaches is being carried out 5 kilometres beyond the coastal region during the nesting period to avoid disturbing the turtles and such regions being regarded as protected areas. They possess a thinner carapace compared to other sea turtles thus they can crack even with little pressure being exerted on them. Their carapace has prefrontal scales that extend up to the head and they also have coastal scutes.

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They prefer sandy beaches for nesting in the tropical and subtropical regions. They are omnivores and they feed on animals and plants such as cucumbers, jellies, shrimps, and crabs. In Australia, they are regarded as vulnerable. Other predators such as the foxes and Dingos posed a major threat. Their nests and their hatchlings are attacked by predators such as the sand monitor lizard, killer whales, and sharks, birds such as pelicans and feral pigs which attack and consume their nests. Other predators such saltwater crocodiles attack their nests. These crocodiles majorly attack the female Flatback sea turtles. They also face the threat of losing their habitats, trade of their products by human beings, consumption of their meat and eggs, pollution of the marine environment, destruction of their nesting beaches by coastal development, sand dunes that result to the erosion of dunes and climatic changes.

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Artificial light prevents the female turtles from nesting. Reducing amount of waste dumped into the oceans could go a long way in helping the sea turtles. Wastes such as plastic bags could be confused for food by the turtles and ones they feed on them; they are at the risk of dying. Oil spillage in the oceans should be cleaned to ensure free circulation of air within the ocean. Reducing amounts of chemicals that are dumped into the ocean could also assist in assisting sea turtles. The paper also highlights the number of eggs each of these turtles lay in every nest and a brief description about their carapace. The paper also discusses major threats that affect each of these species. Some of the major threats include environmental degradation, habitat degradation, climatic changes in terms of temperatures, artificial light, pollution through oil spillage and acidic rains and dumping of plastic bags in water bodies.

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Other threats include predators such as big fish, just to mention a few like whale and sharks. Human beings also poach sea turtles for their meat and eggs. Several measures that can be undertaken to preserve sea turtles such avoid artificial lighting during their nesting season, avoid dumping water bodies with waste materials such as plastic bags and also reduce the number of chemicals used in water bodies. In conclusion, it is evident that sea turtles are important in the ecosystem and also economically important since they attract tourists. If they are not protected, they will become extinct. It is therefore important for them to be conserved. References 1. noaa. gov/pr/species/turtles/. Sea Turtle. WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www. worldwildlife. org/advances/wyneken/1. pdf?LA=1. National Research Council.  Decline of the sea turtles: causes and prevention.

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National Academies Press. Devers, M.  Turtles. Eldorado Ink. Schifino Valente, A. L.

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