Sea Turtles of SXM!

Sea Turtles of SXM!

Caption: Two Green Sea Turtles on a St. Maarten Dive Site near Simpson Bay. Photo: Leslie Hickerson.

Did you know that in the waters of St. Maarten/St. Martin, we can find FOUR different types (species) of sea turtles? These are Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Loggerhead.

Over the next few weeks, Nature Foundation St. Maarten will tell you all about the sea turtles around the island and what you can do to protect them.

First of all, did you know all sea turtles in St. Maarten are protected?

  • It is illegal to kill, wound, capture or pick-up sea turtles.
  • It is forbidden to disturb, damage or destroy sea turtle nests, lairs or breeding places. It is also forbidden to pick-up or destroy the eggs of any species of sea turtle.

There is a good reason for sea turtles to have such strict protections, as they are under threat worldwide! The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Hawksbill Sea Turtles as critically endangered, Greens are endangered, while Loggerheads and Leatherbacks are both vulnerable. This means that if we don’t stand up to protect them, they could disappear forever!!

Here are some interesting facts about sea turtles you might not know:

  • Sea turtles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
  • Most sea turtles need to reach a certain size, not age, to reproduce. That means if their growth is stunted due to lack of food or poor water quality, it can take extra time to reach maturity. Some species take 20 to 30 years!
  • Female turtles return to the same area (or even the same beach) that they hatched from to lay their eggs. When ready to nest, the female turtle will use the Earth’s magnetic fields to find her way home!
  • The temperature of the nest dictates what sex the babies will be. Warmer nests produce females while cooler ones lead to more males.
  • When the babies hatch, they use the light from the moon to help navigate to the ocean water.
  • A turtle’s shell is part of its skeleton (not just a house) and it contains over 50 bones including their rib cage. Their shell grows with them as they age.
  • Some sea turtles can live to be more than 100 years old.
  • Only 1% off all sea turtles will live to become adults due to environmental dangers (predators) and human impact.

Nature Foundation works hard to protect these animals here at home. To help the foundation to do so, you can vote for it to receive the Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant, made possible by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and SEE Turtles to support sea turtle research and conservation projects. The winner will be chosen exclusively by public vote.

Public voting for the grant selection is open until June 1, 2020. To vote, let an adult help you to go to the website www.seaturtles.org/vote.

In a future edition of The KIDS Herald, Nature Foundation will tell us all about sea turtle nesting season (happening now) and how to help protect sea turtle hatchlings!