16 October 2013

Hawksbill Turtle – Farasan Kabir Island

One the first morning of the Farasan Islands after we had got to the Farasan Coral Resort hotel we went swimming in the sea directly in front of the hotel with the children. Whilst swimming I saw what looked like a large fish caught in a fish net so I went to investigate to see if it was alive and I could release it. When I got there it was not a fish but a Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata. After some time I managed to free to Turtle and brought it back to land to check that its neck and flippers, that had been badly entangled, were not damaged. After ensuring all was fine I took a few photographs and then took it back out to deep water and released it. It swam off very strongly and fast, which was good to see and will hopefully live a long a happy life. This was a great start to our holiday on the Farasan Islands and a great experience for the children to see such a beautiful and rare animal up close. This was the first time I have ever seen Hawksbill Turtle, which are critically endangered, so I was also very pleased.

 The Hawksbill Turtle gets its name from its distinct beak like mouth. A hawksbill Turtles head tapers to a point and their lower jaw is V-shaped, adding to the hawk-like resemblance. They are beautiful, medium sized turtles with adults usually about 0.5 – 1 metre long and weigh 45 – 90 kilogrammes. Their carapace is covered in thick overlapping scales that are called scutes which are usually amber colored and richly patterned, with radiating streaks of lighter brown and black. Their diet consists mainly of sponges that live on coral reefs and their sharp, narrow beaks are used to feed on prey found in reef crevices. Hawksbill Turtles are critically endangered because of their beautiful shell. They have been hunted for hundreds of years in huge numbers for the “tortoise shell” that is used in many types of jewelry and trinkets. They are found throughout tropical waters worldwide, and are known to nest on beaches in at least 60 countries including Saudi Arabia. It takes part in long distance migrations, with breeding and feeding grounds in very distant locations. Hawksbill Turtles are mainly associated with the clear, relatively shallow water of coastal reefs, bays, estuaries and lagoons, with nesting generally occurring on remote, isolated sandy beaches. They take decades to mature, first breeding at 20 to 40 years of age when the female will typically lay up to five clutches of around 100 to 140 eggs in a single breeding season. Nesting is much more dispersed than in other marine turtles, but individuals do tend to return to a particular beach season after season. Probably less than one out of 1,000 eggs will survive and reach adulthood.