Friday, 15 May 2009

The Amazing Sea Turtle!

No, you can’t keep one for a pet-they’re endangered. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of preserving one of our oldest friends.

In the 1950’s, Archie Carr brought the importance of protecting this animal to the forefront of conservationists with his book, THE WINDWARD ROAD. Movements to study and help preserve them have increased, but there is more to be done.

Sea turtles have provided a food source for early man since he roved the Ocean Blue. During the Age of Sail, sailors used them as a meal staple when rations ran low. The green gelatinous meat was used for a stew, or “turtle soup,” and was considered a delicacy all over the world. Coastal populations often depended on them, and their eggs, to survive. Turtle shells were made into jewelry, and even oils found a use. That was then, but not too much has changed for these gentle swimmers although society in general has surpassed these needs.

Although some cultures still hunt turtles to the early stages of decline, evidence shows that sea turtles are in the greatest danger from environmental pollution, beach development, and climate shifts. Ingesting garbage, razing nesting beaches for public use, and increased climate temperatures that effect sexual development while in the egg, are some ways our wise old friends continue to be threatened.

Why bother with these gentle creatures? Sea turtles are among the oldest living animals, tracing back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. With the potential to live even longer than humans, they provide ecological services by eating things such as sea grasses, which must be maintained to sustain all manner of fish and other species. And don’t forget their diet of jellyfish! Most importantly, their numbers provide a good accounting of what is happening to our oceans-the temperatures, the pollutions, and overfishing.

My first time experiencing a sea turtle in the wild occurred several years ago off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. I was moved to tears by the magnificent beauty of the young green sea turtle that swam up along side us in the surf that day. I later took the opportunity to go snorkeling in a sea turtle preserve off the island of St. Thomas. There are no words to describe the majestic experience of seeing a large adult green sea turtle (up to six feet!!) beneath the waves, rise past you to take some air. There is a gentleness and wisdom in their eyes that is beyond description. The things they must see, experience, and know from their long sojourns of life at sea, would be a story to treasure.

Conservation opportunities are available all over the world. Besides being aware of our influence on the environment when we are outdoors (Leave No Trace), there are many organizations always in need of volunteers and donations. Some, like the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (, even offer the opportunity to adopt a sea turtle and track him, for a very low fee.

So remember your green friends when talk turns to the importance of protecting our planet. If you’re lucky like me, one may just swim by some day and thank you.

Danielle Thorne

Author of THE PRIVATEER and the coming soon release, TURTLE SOUP.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Superb blog post, Danielle! Thank you so much for sharing your encounters with these fascinating creatures. Thanks, too, for the links to places where we can help save these wonderful beasts.

The photos, too, are amazing!

Have you always been fascinated by the sea, and the creatures of the sea - and the pirates of the sea?

Sara Taney Humphreys said...

Great post! I love animals and one of my sons really loves them. He loved the sea turtle pics :)

Kaye Manro said...

What a fab post! I love sea turtles too-- and what great pics here. Thanks for the reminder.

I really like the direction of the posts lately-- We share our earth with so many amazing creatures.

LK Hunsaker said...

Dani, such nice information and what a wonderful thing to swim with sea turtles!

Danielle Thorne said...

Thanks and glad you enjoyed and could use it, L. I have always loved turtles, even box turtles. Growing up in the Appalachian mountains, I didn't see the ocean for the first time until I was 19. It was like walking into outer space! I have a deep love for our planet--and the beach! I want my descendants to have the same opportunities I've had-to visit national parks, preserves, and enjoy nature in its clean, virgin state. We are the stewards of this planet. Animal life depends on us.

Savanna Kougar said...

Danielle, beautiful post. We are the stewards of this planet.
Ever since I saw a nature show on sea turtles, I have been in love with them, too. Although, I've never had the opportunity to see one up close and personal.
I loved the box turtles as a kid. I can't even say why, I just do. I've shooed a couple of big ole snapping turtles across the road so they wouldn't get run over... that was interesting, given how they love to bite.

Linda Swift said...

Loved the post, Danielle. I was reminded of our manatees, which are also such gentle creatues, and how they are now so endangered by the speed boats whose proprellers are wounding and killing more of them each year along the Florida coasts.

Danielle Thorne said...

I'd like to dive with manatees someday. They are pretty amazing.