BY Ezinne AZUNNA

May 23 is the World Turtle Day . The  2022 theme  is ” ‘Shellebrate!’ Asks Everyone to Love and Save Turtles.” 

This day is celebrated internationally to remind people to help turtles live and grow in their natural habitat.

Out of the 300 kinds of turtles in the world,129 are said endangered.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists three species as critically endangered and another three as endangered. All species are identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as threatened with extinction and trade is therefore prohibited.

See Turtles, a non-profit organisation that protects sea turtles through conservation travel and volunteer tours agrees that healthy oceans need sea turtles.

According to the UN Atlas of Oceans, “…Sea turtles are a “keystone species”, which means they are an important part of their environment and influence other species around them. If a keystone species is removed from a habitat, the natural order can be disrupted, which impacts other wildlife and fauna in different ways.”

The group stated that sea turtles are important for the following contributions they make for sustainability of the marine habitat:

“Turtles help control their prey. For example, leatherbacks help manage the amount jellyfish in the ocean, hawksbills help reefs by eating sponges that compete with them for space.

“Turtle nesting helps beaches. The nutrients left behind by eggs and hatchlings that don’t survive provide an important source for coastal vegetation.

” Hatchlings are an important source of food for many animals. Birds, fish, mammals like raccoons and others rely on plentiful hatchlings to survive during nesting season.

“They are important for coastal economies and native communities. Many places rely on turtle watching or diving for jobs and income and a number of indigenous communities revere sea turtles as part of their cultures. Plus there are emotional and psychological benefits to seeing a sea turtle in the wild.

” Green turtles grazing on seagrass is an important way to keep seagrass beds healthy. And healthy seagrass benefits many species and stores carbon.”

The use of fishing nets with turtle excluder devices (TEDs) have been advocated and turtles are expected to be untangled and released back into the ocean or waterbody if caught.

“Many countries have specific legislation in force to protect sea turtles but effectiveness varies from country to country. Furthermore, because most species/populations have a wide distribution, it is of critical importance that an integrated geographic framework is established for conservation policies”, the UN Atlas of the Ocean stated.

Reports also suggest that turtles belong to one of the oldest reptile groups across the globe. Interestingly, this makes them significantly older than alligators, snakes, and crocodiles.Sea turtles are given legal protection in the United States and its waters under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Photo Credit: Google

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